Fiction | Workshop

8-Week Fiction Workshop: Voice & Authority

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In this eight-week workshop, we will examine the significance of voice and authority in creative work, and how honing those elements can influence and sharpen every other aspect of a story.

Narrative voice is a concern of any point of view or mode, the lifeblood for any effective fiction. A strong, distinct voice can—and will—take readers anywhere, and readers will gladly go along with it. Conversely, a lacking voice soon leads to a lacking story. A reader's trust in that voice derives from the voice's authority, what Maya Angelou described as, "Words meaning more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning."

Writing wisdom like that transcends any genre or subject matter. But what does that 'human voice' entail, and what makes such a voice distinct? How does a writer hone a narrative voice during revisions to best convey the story and ideas they're presenting to readers? What is authority on the written page, exactly, and how does an author manage it? We will explore these questions and more in the pursuit of bettering our fiction. We will also critique published authors celebrated for their creative voice(s) and literary authority, and workshop students' stories. Each student will workshop twice, and will meet with me for one personal conference to discuss their progress and goals. Writers will leave with a clearer and fuller sense of their own narrative voice, and how best to use it while establishing authority in their work.

Class Takeaways

- peer and instructor feedback on two fiction submissions

- one individual meeting with the instructor to discuss writing style, goals, and areas for improvement

- the ability to read fiction like a writer, identifying what makes a narrative voice authoritative

- a greater sense of how to apply the lessons gleaned from assigned readings and the workshop to one's writing

- a stronger, more distinctive narrative voice 

Matt Gallagher

Matt Gallagher is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Youngblood, published in February 2016 by Atria/​Simon & Schuster and a finalist for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It received positive reviews or was featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal and Vogue, and others. He's also the author of the memoir Kaboom and coeditor of, and contributor to, the short fiction collection Fire & Forget. He holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife.


"On one level, the novel is a parable — with overtones of Graham Greene’s THE QUIET AMERICAN ... On another, it's a story about how we tell stories to friends and strangers, trying to convey experiences they will never know firsthand, and how we tell ourselves stories to reckon with the past ... Mr. Gallagher has a keen reportorial eye, a distinctive voice, and an instinctive sympathy for the people he is writing about ... With YOUNGBLOOD, he has written an urgent and deeply moving novel."

Michiko Kakutani THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Gallagher's voice is vital, literary and sometimes lyrical ... Smart, fierce, and important writing."


"In its emotional nuance, YOUNGBLOOD codifies the fact that this is a voice to be reckoned with."


"After a fistful of years and three drafts, it was obvious that my writing a novel in a vacuum—without guidance or insight from someone with a keen understanding of what makes a novel work—was going to result in a heap of nothing, dead in the water. Taking a workshop with Matt Gallagher, learning from him, had the same effect as someone taking a defibrillator to my writing: his uncanny ability to pinpoint what I was trying to do with my voice and prize it out of stasis resurrected not only my novel, but my determination to write it, the right way this time.”

former student

“Matt nurtures a workshop environment that emphasizes dialogue and discussion, never shying away from the inherent complexities that accrue around writing about topics like war. For Matt, fiction is a unique avenue to grapple with the contradictions that define and dictate the world we live in. His workshops are challenging in the best possible way, and I encourage any writer looking to get outside of their comfort zone to take a class with Matt.”

former student