Narrative Writing


J219 Print Bootcamp – Oakland North/Richmond Confidential – Week of September 4-8 (class meets on Labor Day)


J219 Print Bootcamp – Police & Immigration – Week of August 28-September 1


J243 Introduction to Narrative Writing


J298 Introduction to Narrative Writing

In this workshop, we'll work on overall story architecture, studying and practicing the fundamental structural features of narrative. We will also scrutinize the sequencing, shaping, and pacing of paragraphs; sentence construction, rhythm, and clarity; word choice; even punctuation. We’ll pay particular attention to such basic storytelling elements as the tease and promise; voice, tone, and point of view; images, figures, motifs, and themes; telling detail and rich description; characters, scenes, and scene-by-scene development; signposts, dramatic tension, turning points and transitions, and overall narrative line.

J298 The I’s Have It: Writing and Reading the Personal Essay

There are few literary forms quite as flexible as the personal essay. For the journalist, the essay form offers the rare freedom to combine any number of different narrative tools, including memoir, reportage, history, political argument, anecdote, and reflection. In this advanced writing workshop, we will read essays beginning with Montaigne, who more or less invented the form, to Emerson and Thoreau, who Americanized it, and then onto a selection of their descendants, including George Orwell, E.B. White, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace and Rebecca Solnit. We will draft and revise essays of our own in a variety of lengths and types, and write pastiches of others. A central aim of the course will be to help you develop a voice on the page and learn how to deploy the first person -- not merely for self-exposure but as a tool for telling a story, conducting an inquiry or pressing an argument.


Adam Hochschild


Deirdre English


Edwin Dobb


Elena Conis

Permanent Faculty

Jennifer Kahn


Lydia Chavez

Permanent FacultyProfessor

Mark Danner

Permanent FacultyProfessor

Michael Pollan

Permanent FacultyProfessor


In very small classes, students work one-on-one with seasoned editors, pitch by pitch, story by story, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, until a piece is finally as good as it can be. They also create editorial blueprints for new publications and launch prototypes of their own magazines.

I've been obsessed with magazines since I was a kid, but after spending years pursuing other journalistic endeavors, I didn't know how to land a magazine job without climbing my way up from the mailroom. And by the time I got to J-School, I knew I was way past the point of doing that. After taking a magazine class in which I conceived of a magazine from scratch—from a mock cover to a circulation strategy—I knew I belonged at the real thing. After graduation, I headed to New York City for an internship at BusinessWeek, where I produced a cover story with a former J-School classmate. Six months later I joined Marie Claire as an associate features editor. I now spend my days interviewing women around the world for the magazine's international section, reporting on health issues and brainstorming with colleagues. I'm exactly where I want to be at this point in my life—and the J-School definitely helped me get here.

—Lauren Gard, MJ 2004, associate features editor, Marie Claire magazine

The School does not have a formal sequence of courses for writing, but suggested courses after J200 Reporting the News are J298 Writing Workshop: Short to Mid-Length Narrative, J243 Tackling the Longform. Students who wish to pursue writing are also encouraged to take topical reporting classes such as J230 Business Reporting or J228 Political Reporting to continue working on their writing skills in these and other courses.

Magazine courses are organized around the Felker Magazine Center, named after the legendary editor Clay Felker, whose influence on the late-century reinvention of the form at such titles as New York Magazine, Esquire and The Village Voice and on the emergence of the New Journalism was without equal. Later in his career, as a member of the J-School faculty, Felker concentrated on creating new magazine prototypes in small classes that allow students to experience all aspects of magazine production from assigning, writing, and editing to graphics, layout and printing. Our magazine courses carry on Felker's important legacy.

Long-form writing and editing is taught by such distinguished practitioners as Cynthia Gorney, Deirdre English, Michael Pollan, Mark Danner, Adam Hochschild, Jennifer Kahn and Edwin Dobb. Their efforts are joined by other journalists whose work appears in such publications as Harper's, WIRED, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Audubon, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones and The New York Times Magazine.

Magazine students also benefit from the Editing Workshop, a unique effort that pairs students with some of the best editors in the country to work one-on-one for a semester of intense editing and re-editing until a long-form piece is truly ready for publication. Several of our students have had their work featured in the New York Times and other publications thanks to this exposure.

Furthermore, throughout the year, North Gate Hall is a favorite venue for top magazine journalists and editors who come to campus to share their experiences with students, teaching mini-courses and running workshops. A national conference on longform narrative will be held in October, drawing an array of exceptionally accomplished writers and keynoted by New Yorker staff writer, Adam Gopnik.


Application Deadline

December 1st at 11:59pm PST
Application available now.


Summer Minor Program


Workshops & Custom Training Programs