A hungry fox saw some fine bunches of grapes hanging from a vine that was trained along a high trellis, and did his best to reach them by jumping as high as he could into the air. But it was all in vain, for they were just out of reach: so he gave up trying, and walked away with an air of dignity and unconcern, remarking, "I thought those Grapes were ripe, but I see now they are quite sour."

— Aesop (Aesop's Fables )

Course Description

This class will teach middle school students about the craft of fiction writing through a quick survey of short stories. Students will read several different genres of short stories in the first four weeks, with a focus on learning about conflict. They will complete short exercises to stoke creativity, try out different styles, and get inspired!

In the last 4 weeks, students will work with sustained attention on one short story of their own, in a style of their choosing, while reading one novella and learning about the structure of a story.

During the last 4 weeks, when students are writing their stories, they will have access to teacher office hours. They can stop in to ask a quick question, or receive some extra help, feedback, or guidance!

Scope of Work

Students will be assigned a little bit of reading each week (40-60 minutes), take a short quiz, attend one live class, and complete one writing assignment.

Goal of First Four Weeks:

  • Learn from the masters: What is a story?
  • Engage the imagination.
  • Experiment with character, setting, genre, and point of view.
  • Decide on a plan for your story and outline your plot.

Goal of Last Four Weeks:

  • Develop fortitude by drafting your story from beginning to end.
  • Examine how a great author structures a story for maximum effect and interest.
  • Learn how to surprise yourself-- and your reader!


Student will submit their writing assignments each week and will receive detailed feedback!

Students may be invited to share their work in class, but will never be required to do so.

Students may be asked to speak on mic in class and will be expected to do so, but webcams are always optional.

Reading Schedule

I provide links to some stories which can be read online. (Click on the titles.) However, reading in good old-fashioned books is strongly recommended. Download the .pdf's at your own risk!

Week 1: Myths, Fables, and Fairy Tales: What is a story?

Week 2: Humorous Short Stories: Point of View & Character

Week 3: Fantasy/Dystopian/Sci-fi Short Stories: Creating a World

Week 4: Man vs. Nature: Plot and Conflict

Weeks 5-8: Examining the 4 parts of plot

Course Texts

Most of the above stories can probably be found in a variety of different collections or online. The following texts will contain all the stories, and more:

(Click titles to go to Amazon...)

The Menagerie of Marsepink by Claudio R. Salvucci -- This story cannot be found online.

The Ransom of Red Chief and other O. Henry Stories for Boys contains:

  • The Ransom of Red Chief
  • The Reformation of Calliope
  • Memoirs of a Yellow Dog

Bradbury Classic Stories 1 contains:

  • A Sound of Thunder
  • Frost and Fire

Humorous Stories and Sketches of Mark Twain contains:

  • About Barbers
  • A Private History of a Campaign that Failed

The Art of the Short Story contains:

  • The Lottery
  • To Build a Fire
  • The Open Boat

(Optional: Aesop's Fables)

Books not sold with course. Must be purchased separately.


"It looked like a good thing. But wait till I tell you."— O'Henry

Hi, I'm Ms. Finnigan

I have a B.A. in English from Boston College and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Montana, where I won the Merriam-Frontier Award for distinguished achievement in writing.

My essays have been published in a wide variety of venues both online and in print, including in an educational anthology called Humor: A Reader for Writers published by Oxford University Press.

I taught Creative Writing at the high school level for 8 years at Kolbe Academy Online. This is the best compliment I ever received from a student: "I had no interest in creative writing but I just wanted to take another class with you, so I signed up. I'm so glad I did because I discovered that I'm actually kind of good at something I never thought I would be good at! I love this class!"

I hope I can help your child to enjoy the experience of reading and to appreciate the magical art of storytelling. It will be even better if they can nurture their passion for writing or discover a hidden talent along the way!

Spring 2024 Cohort

Maximum size: 15 students
Minimum size: 3 students

Tuition will be refunded if minimum number of students is not met.


For students grades 6-8, especially those with an interest in creative writing.


One hour

Thursdays, 1:00 p.m. PST, 4:00 p.m. EST


Ms. Finnigan's online classroom


March 7, 14, 21, 28

April 4, 11, 18, 25

Time for Office Hours in April TBD

Questions? Feel free to reach out to me at:

contact at teachtothetext dot com

Enroll today! Starts March 7!

Note to Parents


This class will be mostly "secular," though questions of morality, good and evil, and even the soul will undoubtedly come into play, as they do in all great literature.

All are welcome!

I am a Catholic and am sympathetic to families who choose to homeschool because they want to educate their children in environments that are respectful of their Christian values. Students shall respect each other, and should expect that we will steer clear of controversial topics.

Students must dress modestly in case they choose to appear on webcam and must not use foul language. No foul language or inappropriate themes should appear in the student's in-class writing. If a student has a question about whether something is appropriate to share, he or she should run it by Ms. Finnigan before sharing with the class.

What will we read?

I will select stories that I think are appropriate for middle schoolers. I will try to select "classics" that have withstood the test of time and are widely recognized as great writing.

If you have any questions or reservations, please feel free to reach out to me for clarification on any of the above.

--Ms. Finnigan

contact at teachtothetext dot com

Student Testimonial

Byron is now 20 years old. He is Founder and Owner of Foxling Studios. You can find his work here!

The Body

"Am I weird?"
"Yeah. But so what? Everybody's weird."

— Stephen King