Author Masterclass: Getting the Joke for Middle Schoolers

Date:  3/8

Format:  Commongrounds

Time:  3:30-5:00 p.m.

Class Size:  8-12   
Grade Level: Middle School; 6-8th Grades

One of the most basic forms of narrative is the joke. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” We’ve got a subject (the chicken), a setting (the road), and a conflict (crossing it). In this course, via writing exercises and readings, we’ll analyze all levels of storytelling, from the mechanics of narrative to the construction of sentences. This course will investigate how form relates to function in the art of fiction. To do so, we will focus on various aspects of the writing craft, including dialogue, character development, point of view, evocation of place, syntax, tone, pacing, and manipulation of time. A story can be anything—a joke, a series of tweets, a PowerPoint slideshow, a how-to manual—so long as it’s exciting and engaging for the audience, so long as it makes us want to keep reading, to keep listening, to find out the answer to that age-old question, “What happens next?” This course will help students develop a post into a thread, an observation into a joke, an anecdote into a story—in other words, life into narrative. Why did the chicken cross the road? We’ll find out.

The NWS is excited and grateful to partner with Tusen Takk to offer this class, where Snowden Wright will be in residency. Tusen Takk is an artist-in-residence “making place” that offers three to six-week-long solo residencies to mid-career and established artists in a diverse range of disciplines. During their stay, artists have complete access to the beauty of Lake Michigan located steps away. They also enjoy 24/7 access to the Foundation’s unparalleled working studios for the creation of new work.

“Tusen Takk” means “thousand thanks” in Norwegian and is often used to convey appreciation for something received, like a wonderful dinner or a helping hand. It’s with this same sense of gratitude and grace that the founders established the Tusen Takk Foundation; an expression of thankfulness to artists, writers, and composers for the transcendent truth and intangible joy they give back to the world in their work.

Tusen Takk is nestled into the quiet, forested dunes of Lake Michigan north of Leland, and was designed by world-renowned architect Peter Bohlin. For more information, visit


About: Snowden Wright

Snowden Wright is the author of the novel American Pop, a Wall Street Journal WSJ+ Book of the Month, selection for Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” program, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick, and NPR Favorite Book of the Year. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University, he has written for The AtlanticSalonEsquireThe Millions, and the New York Daily News, among other publications, and previously worked as a fiction reader at The New YorkerEsquire, and The Paris Review.

Wright was awarded a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the 2018 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and his debut novel, Play Pretty Blues, won the 2012 Summer Literary Seminars’ Graywolf Prize. Recipient of the Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship from the Carson McCullers Center, he has attended writing residencies at Yaddo, Escape to Create, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Stone Court, Monson Arts, and the Hambidge Center. Wright lives in Yazoo County, Mississippi, where he is at work on his third novel, forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Registration Form

Please rank your areas of interest (number 1-3, with 1 as your top interest)
Application Deadline: 1/24/2023
All NWS Programs are offered free to students. If you'd like to make a donation to help us support our programs, it is greatly appreciated!