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The best NYC writing classes

Harness your inner Zadie Smith or Jonathan Lethem at these stellar writing workshops for every type of writer on every type of budget

Photograph: Shutterstock

Do you know your local bookstores by name? Do you own a working laptop? Congratulations, you’re a writer, at least at heart. But when it comes to putting words on paper, do you need a dose of motivation to finish your novel, or even a single poem? Then you’re in luck because New York is home to some of the best continuing-education classes in the world, including remarkable literary institutions and authors-cum-teachers who want to help you land on a future “best books of the year” list.

Free and cheap classes

Brooklyn Poets Yawp

Brooklyn Poets Yawp

A homegrown nonprofit that celebrates the borough’s literary history and and diverse poetic talents, Brooklyn Poets also supports emerging writers. The second Monday of every month, the organization heads to Cobble Hill pub 61 Local to mount the Yawp, a half-workshop, half–open-mike night, all for $5. The teacher changes every month, and past guests have included notable young writer Natalie Eilbert and Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang. 

Cost: $5

Gotham Writers' Workshop

Gotham Writers' Workshop

One of the most well-known and longest-running writing-workshop programs in the city has a secret: It hosts a free course every week. Check its online calendar (writingclasses.com) to bounce from a screenwriting class with director and theatrical writer Raven Burnett (Mar 8) to a fiction-writing course with novelist-poet Thaïs Miller (Mar 12). Featuring everything from poetry to dialogue to memoir, you’ll never get bored or have to spend more than subway fare.

Cost: Free

Public Library Workshop

Public Library Workshop

The public-library system is a gem of untapped resources, and at some of the 100-plus branches, writing workshops are offered several times a month. Call to join a three-week playwriting course at the Brooklyn Public Library (starts Mar 7), or inquire about the next class on penning love poetry at the Kingsbridge outpost. And yes, these workshops all embody our favorite word: free.

Cost: Free

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Courses and workshops

The Unterberg Poetry Center, 92Y

The Unterberg Poetry Center, 92Y

Founded in 1939, the Poetry Center has hosted literary geniuses like W.H. Auden, Lucille Clifton and, now, possibly, you. In addition to poetry, the Center offers courses in fiction and memoir writing, plus one-day seminars and master classes. But earning a prestigious spot takes some effort: after you submit a $10 application fee, one of the course instructors has to approve you. If you don’t mind the judgment, apply early because courses fill up quickly.

Cost: workshops, $420; master classes, $250

Poets House Classes

Poets House Classes

If spending your evenings in poetry-filled rooms overlooking the Hudson River sounds idyllic, consider registering for one of Poets House’s six-week workshops, one-day classes, or advanced two-day master classes. For those who miss college English courses, these workshops focus both on reading and writing poetry, and each covers a specific topic, like serial poems or poems from the late empire. Only master classes require an application.

Cost: six-week workshops, $325; one-day workshops, $25; master classs, $390

Sackett Street Writers' Worskshop

Sackett Street Writers' Worskshop

Begun in 2002 by author Julia Fierro (Cutting Teeth) in her Brooklyn brownstone kitchen, Sackett Street has grown into one of the most beloved and well-respected writing programs in the city. The classes are intense, ranging from six to ten weeks, with a laser-sharp focus on creating quality, publishable work. True to the organization’s roots, most classes, in fiction, novel-writing and creative non-fiction, still take place in the instructors’ homes. All classes require a writing sample as application.

Cost: six-week classes, $450; eight-week classes, $525; ten-week classes, $1125

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