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CW 68 — Cultivate Your Prose Style: Line by Line

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 7 weeks
Date(s): Apr 18—May 30
Time: 6:30—8:30 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 20
Unit: 1
Tuition: $455
Instructor(s): Nina Schuyler
Limit: 28
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:30—8:30 pm (PT)
Apr 18—May 30
7 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 20
1 Unit
Nina Schuyler
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
What kind of sentence captures anxiety? A feeling of euphoria? Fear? Exhaustion? The style techniques of a sentence—syntax, diction, imagery, rhythm, and sound—are not decoration but content. James Baldwin’s sentences invoke repetitive rhythms, reminiscent of the Bible. Amy Hempel’s precise diction and imagery point to the negative space—that which is left out of the story. Grace Paley combines colloquial and poetic diction to create a distinct voice, while Toni Morrison invokes simile and synecdoche. All writers rely on the same building blocks: words. But what they do with the order and the choice of words distinguishes and defines their voices.

Each week, we will closely read excerpts from a novel, nonfiction work, short story, or poem to decipher what style techniques these writers have invoked on the sentence level. You will then write three to six of your own sentences, employing a specific craft element that we’ve studied, paying attention to the architecture of the sentence and mimicking that structure. We will also look at style techniques used to prepare the reader for magical realism, surrealism, humor, minimalism, and maximalism. At the end of the course, you will produce two written pages, using at least three style techniques, for instructor feedback. You will have mastered the art of writing sentences that do more than move the story along. This course is relevant for both nonfiction and fiction writers.

Former Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco

Nina Schuyler has taught creative writing for nearly two decades. Her novel Afterword was published in May 2023. Her short story collection, In This Ravishing World, received the W.S. Porter Prize and the Prism Prize for Climate Literature and will be published in 2024. Her novel The Translator won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for General Fiction and was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her novel The Painting was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her nonfiction book How to Write Stunning Sentences and her most recent craft book, Stunning Sentences: A Creative Writing Journal, are Small Press Distribution bestsellers. Schuyler received an MFA in creative writing from SF State, a JD from Hastings, and a BA in economics from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.