Julia Phillips

BA, Barnard College. Author of the novel Disappearing Earth (Knopf, 2019), finalist for the National Book Award and international bestseller. Published in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. Recipient of a Fulbright fellowship. Teaches at the Randolph College MFA Program. SLC, 2021–

Previous Courses

MFA Writing

Mixed-Genre Prose Craft: Structuring the Story


This class is focused on structuring your novel or short fiction around a propulsive plot that will satisfy your readers. Through in-class discussion, writing exercises, and independent reading, we’ll identify techniques for building a compelling, coherent narrative. In collaboration with your classmates, you will distill your own chosen story down to its essential conflict. You’ll name your story’s innate strengths and weaknesses, main characters, and major turning points. You will then create an outline of your story in order to strengthen its internal logic and navigate through any structural, pacing, or plotting roadblocks. As we develop your outline over the semester, you’ll gain clarity on your story’s shape and your characters’ motivations. This class is perfect for writers at any stage of a project, whether you are first contemplating a new work or deep into your umpteenth revision. No matter where you’re at, we aim to help you gain clarity. After all, the more you understand your work, the better you’ll be able to advocate for it. The class is intended to help you not only develop and deepen your existing project but also to, in the future, more effectively pitch it to agents, publishers, and readers. Getting a firm grasp on your story’s structure will serve you through the entire life of the work. Readings will include selections from The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby; My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite;The Hole, by Hye-Young Pyun; Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds; The Collector, by John Fowles; Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler; as well as short fiction such as “The Wind,” by Lauren Groff; “Benji,” by Chinelo Okparanta; and “Trailhead,” by E. O. Wilson. Classes are expected to be conducted in person.