Online Intro to Fiction class with moi, October 8th-November 5th

I’m teaching an online Intro Fiction class this fall at StoryStudio and you should definitely sign-up! We will read brilliant, masterful short stories and rob them of every good technique we possibly can. This is a great class for anyone who has been wanting to write fiction for a while but doesn’t know where to start, or for fiction writers who’d like to brush up on the foundations. Register here. Below is the full description.

You have a story you want to tell, but what exactly makes a compelling story? In this five-week workshop with acclaimed short story writer Sarah Kokernot, you’ll learn the building blocks of writing fiction: character, conflict and plot, dialogue, and point of view. We’ll examine stories that teach us the rules, and stories that teach us how to bend them. By the end of class, students will have one or more stories in development.

Each class session will involve writing exercises and outside readings. Some writing assignments will be peer-reviewed and all assignments will receive instructor feedback. Out-of-class readings will include works by Alice Munroe, Jorge Luis Borges, ZZ Packer, Katherine Anne Porter, Clarice Lispector, Anton Checkhov, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Week 1: Who’s This? Get to know your characters and their world through empathetic and playful writing exercises. 

Week 2: What Happens Next? Build conflict and find your story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Week 3: Tell Me About It. Write dialogue that reveals character and energizes your narrative.

Week 4: Out Here, In There. Find a point of view that allows for just the right amount of distance.

Week 5: Everyone Has An Opinion. Receive positive, constructive peer feedback on your work and learn strategies on how to integrate feedback into revision.

This class is open to all genres but readings will focus on literary fiction. Sign-up at StoryStudio.

NOTE: New materials become available each week on Tuesday, but lessons can be completed any time during the week. You do not need to be online at a certain time/date.

Northbrook Writes: "Revision Is Everything," Saturday, 3/16

I’m looking forward to teaching a class on revision at Northbrook Public Library this Saturday, March 16th from 1:00-2:30pm. Here’s the full description:

Writers often talk about rewriting their work 4, 7 or 11 times. But what does "rewriting" actually entail? In this workshop, acclaimed short story writer Sarah Kokernot will provide revision strategies on how to rewrite your work until it is your best work. You'll dive deep into issues of point of view, exposition, dialogue, and the importance of loose first drafts.

Register here!

StoryStudio Gig

I’m very pleased (and very late) to report that I accepted a position as Program Curator at StoryStudio last summer!

StoryStudio offers a variety of creative writing classes to adults and youth. Imagine an à la carte MFA program where you don’t go into student debt or quit your day job. The instructors are incredibly talented writers with serious teaching chops. My job is supporting instructors while they develop concepts for their classes, and helping to ensure that student learning needs are met.

In addition to working at StoryStudio, I’m growing my business as a freelance writer and editor. Contact me for more information and rates.

Generative Writing Workshop at StoryStudio this summer!

I am excited to teach a creative writing class this summer at StoryStudio! The course description is available here and also below.  

Writing is a serious kind of play—it requires experimentation, spontaneity, and an openness to try again. This four-week, all-levels class taught by acclaimed short story writer Sarah Kokernot will cover playful, generative writing techniques that will help you feel a renewed interest in your own work. We’ll borrow and steal from poetry, visual art, and our favorite writers. Such activities include:

  • Poetry Bath: We’ll bring in a few of our favorite books of poetry and incorporate lines into new or ongoing work.

  • Syntax Imitation: We’ll choose a paragraph from a work we admire and do our best to closely imitate its syntax.

  • Sentence Hopscotch: We’ll read through old magazines, pick sentences that intrigue us, then build a paragraph or scene around those sentences.  

Students will leave with stories in development or new material for an ongoing project, in addition to feedback from the instructor.

Be prepared to work on and share new material in class, give positive feedback to your peers, and complete short assignments at home.

"Best Worst American" by Juan Martinez

Juan Martinez has a book of short stories out!


I would love this book even if I wasn't married to the author. The stories are darkly funny and beautifully imagined. But, don't take my word for it. Here's a glowing review from the less biased experts at Tor: "... you will emerge changed by his imagination, ready to see the world in a different light."

Buy a copy from Small Beer Press or through your local independent bookstore, such as Women and Children First in Chicago.


"Pleasure To Make Your Acquaintance" Distinguished in Best American Short Stories 2016

I was excited and proud to discover that "Pleasure To Make Your Acquaintance" is a distinguished story in Best American Short Stories 2016. It's been a crazy, hectic summer and to tell the truth it's been hard to carve out time to write between raising a toddler and making a living. Acknowledgements like this are a huge encouragement. Thank you Heidi Pitlor and Junot Diaz!

Thanks also to Crazyhorse for originally publishing this story in their Spring 2015 issue

Word Lab at 826CHI

A few weeks ago I led a visual-arts and writing themed summer camp for English Language Learners -- and it was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever. The quality of written material that young students generate from their own visual art is simply amazing, and I wish this kind of arts-driven literacy curriculum was more available in schools. Our students created extraterrestrial self-portraits, imaginary cities,  and floor-plans for dream hotels. Many thanks to all the dedicated volunteers and interns who worked one-on-one with this awesome crew of students!

You can read more about 826CHI programs here.

Students writing compliments about each other's paintings.

Students writing compliments about each other's paintings.

"M&L" in Best American Short Stories 2015!

I'm so thrilled that Heidi Pitlor and T.C. Boyle chose "M&L" to appear in The Best American Short Stories 2015. It's a huge honor. I've been a fan of the series since Walter Mosley's 2003 edition. I was so deeply impressed by how alive and urgent each of those stories were. I read the book front to back in a single day, and by the time I was done I knew I wanted to write short fiction.

I'm deeply grateful to the editors of West Branch for believing in "M&L."

Wings of Isis New Age Gifts and More

Proud and honored that Front Porch nominated "Wings of Isis New Age Gifts and More" for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Here's a review from New Pages: Sarah Kokernot’s fiction contribution has a killer first paragraph, starting with, “Tuesday afternoons between three and four o’clock are the slowest time at Wings of Isis New Age Gifts, so that’s when my sister Lula goes into the backroom to conjure the dead.” Each line is a treat; it continues: “My sister speaks in two voices. One is her own, calm as a 911 operator and sunny as a tour guide. The second is the voice of the dead, nasal and throaty, like she’s recovering from the world’s worst sinus infection.” When their Mimi dies, she sets a test to see if Lula really can speak with the dead. It’s unpredictable, original, and well-crafted, a must-read.

You can read "Wings of Isis New Age Gifts and More" in its entirety here.

Reviews of "Odd Variations on the Species"!

The nice thing about writing speculative short fiction is that people read -- and actually review -- speculative short fiction. From Locus Online Reviews: "Like much comedy, this one has a sort of manic intensity, with multiple themes competing for reader attention and complicating the plot... Funny and amusing stuff."

And there's another one at the SFRevu Review.

"Yoga Jones is my spirit animal." -- Patton Oswalt

I wrote an article about Buddhism, yoga, and Orange Is The New Black. "An Unlikely TV Heroine: The Dharma According to Yoga Jones" is now available through Spirituality & Health magazine. Many thanks to the talented Constance Shulman for giving this interview!