Shapes of Stories

Intermediate Level // 10-Week Online Course

Shapes of Stories

If you're intrested in joining the waitlist, please email

April 12 - June 20

$435 if registered by 03/22/2021
$485 if registered after 03/22/2021



Instructor: Nancy McCabe

Even good first drafts are often shapeless, with fragmentary scenes and images, anecdotes and episodes; it’s in the revision process that we more fully understand how to develop and connect all of these elements as we carve out the shapes of our stories.

This course will help you expand your writer’s tool kit by experimenting with a variety of structures—everything from straightforward, traditional presentations to offshoots of the lyric essay, such as braids, collages, or the many varieties of borrowed forms that we find in “hermit crab” essays. You will read great examples and then try out each shape, if only briefly. Over the course of 10 weeks, you can choose to write about one subject using these different shapes, or let the shapes inspire an essay you hadn’t planned to write.

Students are encouraged to write at least 800 words each week for the first six weeks to become familiar with each shape, and to choose two essays to complete. Throughout the course, writers will submit work for peer and instructor critique and engage in online discussion—please see below for more details.

Week 1: Narrative Arc
Week 2: Models, Diagrams, Patterns, and Metaphors
Week 3: Frame
Week 4: Lyric
Week 5: Braid
Week 6: Collage
Week 7: Hermit Crab: Intro to Borrowed Forms
Week 8: Hermit Crab: Instruction Manual
Week 9: How to Find the Right Form
Week 10: Returning to the Narrative Arc and the Flexibility of Forms

See the complete syllabus here »

See schedule of all available classes »

Refund and cancellation policies

By 5pm EST on the Monday before classes begin (one week prior to start date):

  • Students may request a refund (less a $50 application fee). You may also request a transfer (no fee) to another course in the same term or future term. Transfer credits must be applied within two years from your cancellation date.

By 5pm EST on the Friday at the end of the first week of classes:

  • Students may transfer their enrollment credit to a future course (less a $95 processing fee for 10-week courses or a $75 processing fee for 5-week courses). Transfer credits must be applied within two years from your cancellation date.
  • Students may switch to another class in the same term (subject to availability) for a $25 fee.

No refunds or transfers will be offered after this deadline.

* Learn how to receive a "refer-a-friend" discount.