Growing Smaller: The Art of Micro- and Short Fiction

with Tina Barry

microfiction short fiction writing course

When a story is this short, a writer must choose each of their 300 words (or less!) like they’re mining for diamonds.

In this workshop, we’ll look at masters of the microfiction and flash genre, as well as narrative poets and prose poets. You’ll learn to use rich, unexpected language while honing in on the moment that offers the greatest impact. Students will leave with four drafts of stories and plenty of ideas for generating new pieces.

Learning and Writing Goals

By the end of the course, students will have learned:

  • The lengths and requirements for micro- and short fiction.
  • How to write a compelling opening.
  • The golden rule, “arrive late, leave early.”
  • How to compress details, like characterization, into a tiny story.
  • How to use the tools of poetry in writing micro-fiction.

Students will write at least three pieces of micro-fiction and one short short story.

Weekly Syllabus

Lesson One: A Brief History of Brief Writing

For this lesson, we’ll look at the history of very brief writing. I’ll offer several goals for writing compelling short fiction, and a contemporary master of the craft will weigh in on how they launch a short piece, and what their goals are for creating plot.

For the first assignment, you’ll work toward achieving those goals, while following the golden rule of brief fiction: arrive late, leave early.

Lesson Two: Heading Inside

What goes on in your character’s head? Understanding what motivates the character or characters in your story will give it its realness and intimacy.

For this two-part assignment, you’ll interview your main character about their parents and siblings (if any), troubling experiences and what delights them: AKA: who and what made them who they are. You’ll use that knowledge as the spine of your story.

Lesson Three: Hooking Up

This week, we’ll look at writers whose stories open with killer lines that hook the reader, and never fail to offer a few surprises.

For lesson three, you’ll write three micros of 250 words or less, either linked or not, with “I have to keep reading” first lines, and at least one twist.

Lesson Four: Poem with a Plot

In our last week, we’ll look closely at narrative poets whose work tells stories much like micro-fiction, and short form writers whose stories teeter between poetry and fiction.

For your last lesson, you’ll write with lush, descriptive language and an ear for rhythm and sound. Your story can be linear, with a set beginning, middle and end or it can resemble a prose poem, with the narrative unfolding in unexpected ways.

Why Take a Micro-Fiction Writing Course with

  • We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
  • Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
  • Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
  • Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
  • Expert instructor Tina Barry will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.

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Student Feedback for Tina Barry:

Tina Barry is an outstanding teacher who is always responsive and supportive. Throughout the course she helped us grow as writers through suggestions and comments that conveyed respect and care. Kathleen Thomas

Tina is wonderful at giving very detailed feedback to us as soon as we posted our work. Her input on my writing was very helpful. Lori McDonald

I've taken several online courses with Tina Barry, and she is by far one of the best poetry teachers I've had—online or elsewhere. The assigned readings for each lesson were stimulating and varied, and her prompts inspired some of my best poems. She was quick to respond with insightful, clarifying and concise edits and comments - her ability to read the poems on many levels deepened my understanding of my own work. She has an exquisite ear for language and the musicality of a line, and craft-wise, her thoughtful feedback not only helped me to improve the poems I submitted to the workshop but also carried over to the way I continue to write and re-write my poems. Elizabeth Burk

A+ Again! Tina's classes always inspire poems for me... she's one of my favorite all-time teachers. Susan Vespoli

Tina did an excellent job of both helping us generate ideas and providing feedback. The feedback by the teacher and students helped me improve my poems in surprising and interesting ways. I found it helpful to hear what was striking or moving in the poem, or what was confusing. The prompts were helpful in generating new ideas for poems as well! Pat LaDouceur

Tina was great—her feedback was thorough, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. She did a wonderful job of highlighting strengths and identifying weaknesses in a useful way. Tina Siegel

I had an enriching experience these past four weeks. The other participants were excellent writers, willing to comment, and share ideas. Tina, of course, had excellent suggestions all of which I've already incorporated into the pieces written during the course. I was able to overcome a months-long dry spell, suddenly writing about minutia I might otherwise have overlooked. It certainly feels great to break through my writer's block. My fingers are flying over the keyboard and scribbling with pen in my journal. Thanks again to Tina and Writer' for making this hot, COVID-filled summer productive and enjoyable. Sharon Thompson

Tina Barry excels to the highest level. Her lessons and assignments are always engaging and thought-provoking. Tina creates an atmosphere that inspires and encourages all of us to be both daring and focused. I have been in several of Tina’s workshops; in each one my writing and commitment to writing has deepened from her guidance, support and respect for me and all participants. Kathleen Thomas

My experience was great! The group was very engaging. Tina was exceptional. Crystal Manboard

Tina's suggestions to all the participants was respectful and helpful. I feel like I know her now! The alternate prompts she offered for each lesson helped me find the inspiration to begin that writing assignment. Charlotte Randolph

Too many workshops are led by poets who know how to publish, but cannot teach or lead. Tina Barry does all of the above brilliantly, giving lesser beings hope that their words matter, because they matter so much to her. She refuses to be boring, and presses you—no, dares you—not to be either. Pamela Brown

A workshop with Tina Barry has always been a memorable and valuable investment in my writing life. The depth of Tina's preparation is evident from the start. Throughout the workshops, Tina stays in contact with every participant with excellent and challenging critiques and comments. I have never been disappointed. CR Green

What makes Tina stands out as a teacher, my teacher last year, is her capacity to combine deep knowledge of form, craft, and an eye for pointing to what may make your poems better. During the class I took with her, I benefited as much by the keen comments she offered to the other students, as her comments on my poems. It was an education in itself. Her commitment to her students is as deep as her commitment to teaching excellence. Tina is an avid listener to your words, respecting and pushing you to your best work. Juan Mobili

I have taken several classes from Tina Barry and found them stimulating and exciting. They are of the highest caliber, for she encourages us to look at new ways of writing, examining ourselves and translating thoughts into poetry. I have saved her lessons, which have encouraged me to continue my quest for becoming a better poet and writer. Her comments have always been thorough, considerate, encouraging and complete. I continue to seek her out because of her expertise. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios, Professor Emerita, American University

I enjoyed Tina's classes and found that her excellent insights and group leadership skills combined to give me new themes and knowledge for writing. She is always available for an immediate response to students' questions and observations. I really like her flexibility in encouraging independent, differing writing styles. Karen Waldron

tina barry writing instructor


Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft (Big Table Publishing, 2019) and Mall Flower (Big Table Publishing, 2016). Tina’s work appears in numerous anthologies including The Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2020 (spotlighted story), Nasty Women Poets, and A Constellation of Kisses. Her poetry and fiction appear in Rattle, Verse Daily, A-Minor, the Lascaux Review, The American Poetry Journal, and Yes, Poetry. Tina is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has had several Best of the Net nods. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Long Island University, Brooklyn. In addition to, Tina is a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn.