Fiction | Workshop


Welcome to Kraftwerk!

In this writing class we will discuss student work in depth, with an eye toward what builds a story or excerpt that is ready to submit for publication; idiosyncratic character development, meaningful stakes, surprising language, smart conflict and pacing, and the final, impossible-to-articulate ingredient that Hemingway called “whatever butterflies have on their wings.” We will workshop student work with this question in mind: where do I think this writer/story is trying to go? We will tailor our critiques toward the idea of helping the writer get there. We will dissect published stories to figure out how the author achieved his/her effects by mining their choices for craft gems and tips. We will discuss practical ways to submit work and navigate the world of publishing. We will eschew the idea that there is one way to write fiction. We will seek out the joy in our work and the work of others and will cultivate our personal, idiosyncratic voices. We will keep the wolves at bay. We will eat cookies during the last class.

During this six-week intensive workshop, each student will workshop twice. Following their in-class critiques, students will meet with the instructor for individual conference.

Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS and the story collection SAFE AS HOUSES. Awards include the O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and The Iowa Award for Short Fiction. She teaches at NYU and in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute for American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, and  is an Editor at Large for Catapult. In Fall 2017 she will be the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland. For more information, please visit:


"Marie is a great teacher, animal lover, writer, and friend. She'll make you a better writer and a better person. And she's funny. Who wouldn't want that? She'll make you see things you never saw before—in your stories and in life."

Julia former student

"With bulls-eye aim and enormous compassion, Marie-Helene Bertino will help you peel your work to its beating heart and build it up again. She is thorough and generous and inspirational; her class will change your writing life."

Su former student

"When you sign up for a class with Marie-Helene, you're not just signing up for a class that week, you're signing up for a class for your career. By that, I mean, she wants you to succeed."

Jess former student

"Marie is an incredibly generous teacher. Once you take a class with her, you've got a cheerleader for life. In workshop, she keeps discussion on point and critical. She's an intuitive reader, and—bonus—gives lengthy written feedback. A total gem."

Alana former student

"As a mentor, Marie is accessible, generous, kind, and thorough. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for her. Not to mention her laugh is magic. Any time spent under Marie's tutelage is a treasure."

Jamie former student

"Inventive, gorgeously written and unforgettable."

NPR Best Books of 2014

"Bertino seems to tweak some grand cosmological constant and set the universe askew, as if for a handful of pages she’d changed the laws of gravity."

"Bertino is a true master of her craft, and readers will devour her writing…I can’t imagine a person sitting down with this book and not enjoying it."

"A marvel."

Maggie Shipstead author of ASTONISH ME

"The stories in SAFE AS HOUSES are quirky and hilarious, but also tell honest emotional truths. It is exceedingly difficult to manage the emotional distance this kind of storytelling requires. Bertino handles her narratives with masterful care. Each one is a literary gem."

"Books like SAFE AS HOUSES remind me of the feeling I first had reading Lewis Carroll, a feeling that keeps me coming back to genre fiction in all its forms: that some people see the world very differently, and that it’s immense fun to borrow their perspective and see it along with them."