Eleonora Grenfell ’23

Masterclass Neil Gaiman: The Art of Storytelling, Margaret Atwood: Teaches Creative Writing,

This summer, I took two masterclasses on fiction writing. The first masterclass I took, entitled Neil Gaiman: The Art of Storytelling, taught me a myriad of strategies for approaching imaginative storytelling. Drawing examples from his own works of literature, Neil Gaiman demonstrated how to find your writer’s voice, develop original plots, and create compelling characters. In particular, I appreciated the frequent case studies that Gaiman included in his masterclass. These case studies were short episodes dedicated to closely examining a 
particular technique or lesson within the context of one of his published works. I found these case studies invaluable because they allowed me to see how certain abstract elements like style and genre work within a larger piece of fiction alongside many other elements.

After finishing Neil Gaiman’s masterclass, I proceeded onto Margaret Atwood’s masterclass, Margaret Atwood: Teaches Creative Writing which focused primarily on speculative fiction and questions of gender within literature. I learned much more literary terminology and vocabulary from Atwood’s masterclass than I did from Gaiman’s. For example, in her lesson on prose, style, and texture, Atwood defined the terms “plainsong” and “baroque,” offering examples of both literary concepts in order to illustrate the differences between these two opposite prose styles. By teaching this actual terminology, Atwood armed students with the language they need in order to discuss the literary elements within their writing in more formal settings.

I also found Margaret Atwood’s discussions of “texture” within fiction fascinating. According to Atwood, part of texture is how your words sound. Although writing is two-dimensional on the page, your words become living, breathing sounds when they are read. As a writer, you are not there to read the text to your readers, so you must ensure that the words flow off the page and out of their mouths with ease.

Both of these masterclasses offered me many useful writing strategies that will have very practical applications in my future. I am planning to major in either English or history, and both of these disciplines require skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing. Although these masterclasses focused primarily on reading and writing fiction, they also included valuable wisdoms that can be applied more generally. However, the most important thing that I learned from Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood was the importance of doing. Both of these instructors tirelessly emphasized that becoming a great writer takes dedication, patience, and years of practice. If one wishes to improve, the only true way to truly do so is to write—to write frequently, to write poorly, and to hopefully write better.

In conclusion, thank you to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and, above all, thank you to the Estate of Bruce C. Davey for enabling me to have this wonderful academic experience. I am profoundly grateful for your thoughtful generosity.