Writing the Short-Short Story

Dates: September 7-11, 2021, 7 pm to 8 pm, PDT (-08:00 UTC). Find your time zone.
Location: Online via Zoom seminars. View a sample session. All sessions are presented live: the recording is sent to you via email the following day.
Faculty: Jordan Hartt
 $250 usd: available below, or contact writing@kahini.org.
The Program  |  The Schedule  |  Faculty  |  Registration  |  Evaluations


The Program

We use Zoom seminars: but we don’t look at each other. Instead, we look at the words on the page!

Very short fictions are nearly always experimental, exquisitely calibrated, reminiscent of Frost’s definition of a poem—a structure of words that consumes itself as it unfolds, like ice melting on a stove. ~Joyce Carol Oates

Build your portfolio of publications by writing five new short-short stories–and getting them ready for revision and submission to magazines.

Designed for writers of all levels: some of our participants are new writers. Others have published several books on national presses.

They are where the poem and story meet. Maybe brevity—on sight—alerts a reader’s expectancy: he collaborates. The impact is O. Henry without the cheating—all gears grind that “inevitable” last line. But the form costs—it sacrifices most of itself. Experience borders perilously on nothing. We are saved from nothing by an abrupt turn to encounter a few assembled straws. ~H.E. Francis  

We study a new short-short story each session, and use the craft techniques of sensory detail, setting, character, point of view, plot, structure, pacing, voice, style, mood, and tone to draft at least one new short-short story of our own. View a sample session.

A really good short-short, whatever else it may be, is a story we can’t help reading fast, and then re-reading, and again, but no matter how many times we read it, we’re not quite through it yet. ~John L’Heureux

Write five new short-short stories, and get them ready for advanced revision and submissions to magazines

Since our inception in 2014, Kahini participants have published over three thousand individual times in literary magazines, including Granta, Harper’s, and the New Yorker; released around three hundred books on such presses as Scribner, and Viking; been featured in the Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Science & Nature Writing anthologies; and won the New Zealand First Book Award. Eighteen past participants so far have been appointed to tenure-track university professorships in creative writing. But our real success at Kahini is in crafting our true, authentic artistic voices.


The Schedule

We study each of these readings through sensory detail, setting, character, point of view, plot, structure, pacing, voice, style, mood, and tone, and use these craft techniques to inspire and inform new work of our own.

August 1: The short-short story of up to 100 words
The Outing” by Lydia Davis and “An Unspoken Hunger,” by Terry Tempest Williams.

August 2: The short-short story of up to 300 words
Swerve,” by Brenda Miller

August 3: The short-short story of up to 500 words
The Waves Were Low,” by Kim Chinquee

August 4: The short-short story of up to 750 words
Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid

August 5: The short-short story of up to 1,000 words 
The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros



This course runs from September 7 to September 11, 2021. All sessions are available live; recordings are sent via email after each session is over.

Writing The Short-Short Story

Evaluations from Recent Participants

“I really enjoyed these sessions! You really know how to write very well and I enjoy your readings, comments and prompts. I like that we have two or three times to write. Also, I like that it doesn’t feel like zoom. I get tired of that format and am glad you are offering something different.” ~Ginny B.

“I’m writing a novel and took this course on a lark. What I found: my writing got better at the sentence level and I even published a standalone story. I plan on using this course again to help develop my chapters.” ~Paul L. 

“When my teenage son finds me looking out of the window, he laughs, “Ha, there goes our writer at work.” He means it as a joke and that’s how I take it, ignoring the faint taint of resentment that the mother is hiving off time for what, writing? Really? But that’s not all. I also want to brush aside what lies at the heart of his joke: the truth of my life as a writer. I can stay up all night imagining the most beautifully layered story but when I sit down to write, my mind goes blank. Come Wednesdays 7:30-8:30 am IST, the story is different. Hidden memories coalesce to form words that flow out of the mouth of my shirt sleeve onto the pages. Shitty first drafts, yes, but it is writing and so precious. When this happens, it leaves me anxious that it may not happen next time. But it does. Week after week. It is too much of a good thing to waste time on investigating if it is the beauty of the stories or the word-by-word dissection (and I love the fact that each word matters and is there for a reason). Is it the communion with writers at their desk at the same time, writing? Or the zillion prompts Jordan manufactures out of a 72-word story!” ~Rebecca M.

“I’d do this again in a heartbeat.” ~Ellen G.

“After a period of not writing this class gave me the jolt I needed to put pen to paper again. I love that we write during the classes and you really do have a couple of drafts at the end of each session. Jordan’s explanantion of why a particular story works is very clear and has been a great reminder of the techniques to use when feeling stuck and when editing, I highly recommend this course.” ~Emma R.

“For me, the difficulty of the project of writing is sometimes getting started, and that’s where Jordan Hartt shines. We will read a very short story, and he will talk about it, and suddenly I will see it, and how it’s working. Then we’re writing based on it and I always get something.” ~David C.

“These weekly one-hour classes are perfect for me, a new writer. Short, to the point and throughout I know I am growing as a writer. I particularly thrive on being exposed to tools that emphasize writing as artistic process. My file folder is growing from the many opportunities to practice within the class as well.” ~Vicki H. 

In each Kahini session, Jordan picks one or two stories and helps the class unravel and rediscover them through a layer-by-layer analysis of its elements including sensory detail, plot, voice, setting, and pacing. After reading aloud a story twice or thrice, Jordan highlights the turning points and artistic choices made by the writer, casting a whole new dimension to it in the hour which is not just a workshop but a meditation of the story’s essence. Each story he brings to class, tiny as it might seem, packs a creative writing curriculum within itself. Interspersed with Jordan’s analysis is the writing time based on his thoughtful prompts. During Kahini classes, I have drafted work I am proud of. Highly recommend to any writer at any phase of their writing journey. ~Sara C.