Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Fiction Workshop: Surprise Yourself

So much of the joy of reading comes from being surprised. My favorite sentences are ones that turn language on its head; the most dynamic characters are always doing things I never thought they’d do; the greatest stories are those that take odd-ball turns or out-of-left field detours. I have found this to be true for writing as well; a big part of the pleasure of it comes from being able to surprise oneself. When the writer makes herself laugh out loud, or takes her own breath away, or reads something she’s written and cannot believe that she herself wrote it—it is in these moments that she has channeled something from someplace unknown, somewhere odd and deep and new. The resulting work feels unplanned, fresh and alive, and is often the defining feature of a great piece of writing.

So how can we learn to surprise ourselves more? To habitually tap into our untapped wells? To defy our own expectations and those of our readers, and bring out the brightest blazes of gladness in the process? In this class, we will investigate these questions through a series of unconventional in-class exercises, close group readings, and peer-to-peer workshops that keep an eye out for the idiosyncrasies that make a piece of writing sing. This class is for anyone who wants to enliven a sentence, shake up a short story, or bring a chapter of a novel to life.

During this six-week intensive workshop, each student will workshop twice and have one individual meeting with the instructor.

*no class 2/19

Molly Prentiss

Molly Prentiss was born in Santa Cruz, California, in 1984. She has has been a Writer in Residence at The Blue Mountain Center, Vermont Studio Center, and at the Workspace program at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and received the Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Aspen Institute. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the California College of the Arts. Tuesday Nights in 1980 is her first novel. She currently lives, writes and walks around in Brooklyn, New York.


“It isn't easy to write a novel about art, and even harder to write a novel about art this good, with this much energy and verve and sense of adventure—and Molly Prentiss has done it. TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980 is much more than an accomplished first novel; it is a beautifully written story of creation and transformation, set against a backdrop of urban decay and political violence. I loved this book.”


“For those of us who like our novels soulful and brainy, ambitious and deeply felt, Molly Prentiss has given us a first work of fiction to marvel at and then savor. This is a serious young writer in full command of her craft.”

Tom Barbash author of STAY UP WITH ME

“Whether her canvas is as broad as the New York City art world in the good old days of glitz and excess, or as small as the quiet, deeply moving connection between brother and sister, Molly Prentiss seems able to render any expression of humanity expertly onto the page. TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980 has worlds in it, all widely appealing, and Molly Prentiss has chops to spare. I can't imagine the soul who won't love this book.”

Profile Photo Marie-Helene Bertino author of 2 A.M. AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS

“Molly has an uncanny ability to see right through the mess on the page to the beating heart of a story. She helped me understand precisely what worked, and what didn’t without ever trampling on my voice. She’s brilliant and generous and insightful, and as an added bonus, absolutely hilarious (boy does this help). I can’t say enough about the impact she’s had on both my writing and my process.”

former student