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100 Free Lectures That Will Make You a Better Writer

by Staff Writers

By Caitlin Smith

Being a writer means you constantly evolve and grow in your writing knowledge. One way to aid in this evolution to becoming a better writer is by learning from what others have to offer. The following lectures cover a wide range of fields including literature, speeches from current writers, lectures from Nobel Laureates in literature, lectures about fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism, and even entire classes on writing.

Learn from Great Literature

These lectures focus on specific writers and their works, frequently with an emphasis and analysis on the writing.

  1. Richard Wright, Black Boy. Professor Amy Hungerford takes a look at this American novel and also explores the writer’s determination to maintain the integrity of his novel in the face of a Book of the Month Club president.
     
  2. Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood. The first part of this two-part lecture series discusses faith and interpretation while the second part examines the novel in several different contexts.
     
  3. Milton. Professor John Rogers teaches this class from Yale with lectures on a variety of Milton’s works, especially Paradise Lost.
     
  4. Modern Poetry. From Robert Frost to T.S. Eliot to Elizabeth Bishop, learn from modern poets in these lectures given by Professor Langdon Hammer at Yale.
     
  5. J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey. Learn to use evidence from the text to make a sound argument with this novel as an example.
     
  6. Guest Lecture by Andrew Goldstone. This lecture focuses on Vladimir Nabokov’s writing style in relation to other modern writers.
     
  7. John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse. Watch this lecture to find out about Barth’s commitment to language expressed in the risks he takes as a writer and how it accentuates the relationship of language and love.
     
  8. Thomas Pynchon, The Crying Lot of 49. Amy Hungerford looks at Pynchon’s work as "a sincere call for connection, and a lament for loss, as much as it is an ironic, playful puzzle."
     
  9. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. Examine the role that language as violence plays in Morrison’s work.
     
  10. English 205: Lectures. Read the lectures from this class at Los Angeles Harbor College that covers English literature up to 1800.
     

Learn from Current Writers

These current writers share their experience, knowledge, and advice on writing.

  1. Writing Vietnam. Tim O’Brien speaks about his award-winning novel, The Things They Carried, set during the Vietnam conflict and the many aspects of the act of writing.
     
  2. Ray Bradbury’s Video Lecture on Writing. This famous writer of science-fiction lectures on writing while sharing tips, skills, and the experience of a master.
     
  3. Andrei Codrescu Lecture on Writing and Publishing. Download this audio lecture to learn about the struggles this writer faced, in his home country of Romania and as well as after his move to New York, to get his work published.
     
  4. Peebles: Porches and Pyramids. Melvin Van Peebles shares his vast experience as a writer, director, producer, and composer in this lecture at Harvard University.
     
  5. Comedy Inside the Daily Show – Rob Kutner. Learn about writing comedy from Rob Kutner, who also shares a bit about what it’s like to work with Jon Stewart.
     
  6. Fractured – Karin Slaughter. This popular thriller writer discusses being a southern writer, creating characters, and why she writes the type of stories she does.
     
  7. Lunch with Wendell Berry. Listen to this audio lecture by writer, poet, and essayist Wendell Berry.
     
  8. Onetti and the Shadow of Faulkner and Borges. Mario Vargas Llosa speaks about the works of Onetti and the influence of Faulkner and Borges on his work.
     
  9. Ian McEwan: Talking and Reading from his work. Watch this lecture given at Princeton by this popular British author.
     
  10. The Playworld and the Empire: The Twenty-first Century and the American Playwright. Playwright Paula Vogel lectures on the role of drama in current society.
     
  11. Shelley’s Heart and Pepys’s Lobsters. Hermione Lee speaks on biography while specifically examining Percy Bysshe Shelley and Samuel Pepys.
     
  12. Jane Austen Faints. In this second of Hermione Lee’s lectures at Princeton, she discusses the telling of Jane Austen’s life story.
     
  13. Virginia Woolf’s Nose. The last of the three lectures at Princeton by Hermione Lee, this video lecture explores Virginia Woolf, an author Lee has studied and written about extensively.
     

Learn from Nobel Winners

All of these writers have received the esteemed honor of being recognized as Nobel Laureates in literature. These lectures discuss their lives and work as it pertains to literature.

  1. Nadine Gordimer. This winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1991 presents her lecture, "Writing and Being."
     
  2. Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison examines the role of language in society, looking at when it is used for ill-willed means such as racial violence and how it can buoy a culture and life through it’s wise stewardship.
     
  3. Kenazburo Oe. This Japanese writer speaks about his relationship to Japan, ambiguity, and spirituality as it relates to his work as a writer.
     
  4. Gunter Grass. Speaking about reading, writing, and the shared history of storytelling, Grass shares his ideas about the future evolution of storytelling and literature.
     
  5. Elfriede Jelinek. Read the English version of Jelinek’s lecture where she discusses literature, language, and reality and how they play into writing.
     
  6. Harold Pinter. Learn this writer’s perspective on what is true and false and how it relates to art and politics.
     
  7. Doris Lessing. Find out what this writer has to say about the storyteller in everyone and how it is especially important to listen to those who may not initially capture your attention as a source of education.
     
  8. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez speaks about Latin America, the persistence of life over death, and the role of the writer in promoting the creation of hope.
     
  9. Saul Bellow. Follow along as Bellow discusses character development as a reflection of mankind and the role of art in documenting life.
     
  10. William Golding. Benefit from the wisdom of this aging Nobel Laureate who shares his thoughts on the English language, literature, views on life, and more in this lecture that is both amusing and poignant.
     

Fiction Writing

Theses fiction writers share their work and experience as writers.

  1. The Craft of Science Fiction. This video lecture from MIT Adjunct Professor of Writing, Joe Haldeman, discusses his upcoming book as well as the craft of writing science fiction.
     
  2. Mary Alice Monroe, Swimming Lessons. Listen to what this author has to say about her latest novel in this lecture.
     
  3. The Dixie Darlings Don’t Hold Back. These five southern belles share their experience and offer advice in this video.
     
  4. One Fifth Avenue – Candace Bushnell. Bushnell discusses her book and reads from it as well.
     
  5. Liberty – Garrison Keillor. This popular radio host and writer talks about his book, Liberty.
     
  6. The Book of Lies – Brad Meltzer. Meltzer shares his experience writing this book.
     
  7. Where the River Ends – Charles Martin. This writer left the business world to begin writing. Listen to him read from his latest book.
     
  8. Someone Knows My Name – Lawrence Hill. Hill discusses his fiction novel, based on historical facts, and why he writes.
     
  9. Just Too Good To Be True – E. Lynn Harris. This writer talks about his experience as an author and the release of his latest book.
     
  10. Salman Rushdie – The Enchantress of Florence. Rushdie discusses his book and reads from it as well.
     

Non-Fiction Writing

From food to sports to religion to culture, these non-fiction writers lecture on their experiences and thoughts about writing.

  1. Risky Writing and the Forces that Silence It. Richard Hoffman leads this lecture and panel discussion about the history and importance of "risky writing."
     
  2. The Power of Place. Listen to travel writer Tom Haines talk about the importance of making connections with people in order to understand issues surrounding time, place, and culture.
     
  3. Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table. Amanda Hesser, food editor at the New York Times Magazine, shares food-inspired essays by 25 writers.
     
  4. Radical Mommyhood. Listen as writers and moms Amy Richards and Maegan Ortiz discuss motherhood, feminism, and race in this video.
     
  5. How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies. Peter W. Galbraith discusses politics and writing in this lecture.
     
  6. The Trials of Homecoming. This psychiatrist treats patients with combat trauma through accounts of battle in Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey and shares the power of the written word here.
     
  7. Emily Post – Laura Claridge. Laura Claridge writes autobiographies and speaks specifically about documenting the life of Emily Post here.
     
  8. Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America. Frederick Douglass Opie discusses his book, which describes the relationship between African-Americans and their cuisine.
     
  9. Danya Ruttenberg: Surprised by God. Going from atheism to the rabbinate, this author shares her experience.
     
  10. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. John Lauritsen discusses the premise of his book that Frankenstein was actually written by a great male poet–not Mary Shelley.
     
  11. A Guitar and a Pen: Songwriting as Storytelling. This video features two editors who just completed this book that describes how storytelling through song is so magnificently accomplished.
     

Poetry

The following poets speak about various aspects of writing poetry.

  1. Allen Grossman. Listen as this poet discusses "difficult" poetry and communication problems inherent in poetry.
     
  2. Meet the Poet: Dana Gioia. This renowned poet is also a writing teacher. Listen to what he has to say about poetry and teaching poetry in modern society.
     
  3. Meet the Poet: Michael Harper. Harper shares his experience as an award-winning poet and talks about his experiences and reads some of his poetry.
     
  4. Meet the Poet: Adrienne Rich. Learn about poetry through Rich’s works in this lecture at Wellesley College.
     
  5. No One Waits for the Train – Waqas Khwaja. Khwaja reads from his book of poetry and discusses his work here.
     
  6. A.E. Housman: A Life in Letters. These professors lecture on the work of this famous poet.
     
  7. Mary Jo Bang. Explore the importance of repetition in poetry in this lecture at the University of Chicago.
     
  8. Matthea Harvey. This poet talks about titles and their importance in this lecture.
     
  9. Stanley Lombardo. This Professor of Classics at the University of Kansas began his education as a poet and discusses poetry and translation in this lecture.
     
  10. Michael Palmer. Palmer discusses the act of collaboration in creating poetry and art, especially in light of the popular perception of poetry resulting from the solitude of the artist.
     
  11. Leslie Scalapino. This prolific poet discusses poetics and specifically authorial intention.
     
  12. C.K. Williams. Williams gives his lecture entitled "Odd Endings" at the University of Chicago.
     

Miscellaneous Classes

These classes will also help you become a better writer by examining such aspects as the editing process, words and language, and writing for specific audiences such as those in academia.

  1. Biting and Smoking: Editing Jonathan Swift. This professor discusses what it was like to edit Swift’s work–the good and the bad.
     
  2. Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. Renowned scholar, Stephen Pinker, speaks about the properties and power of language.
     
  3. Roy Blount Jr: Alphabet Juice. Listen to what Blount has to say about language and the energy of words in this video.
     
  4. Jean-Loup Chiflet on the Eccentricities of French Language. Learn what this writer has to say about the strangeness that can occur in the French language.
     
  5. Communication Skills for Academics. This class teaches how to craft a well-written academic paper as well as other academic communications through lecture notes and assignments.
     
  6. Demystifying the Academic Game. Learn what these two writers have to say about bridging the communication gap between teachers and students.
     
  7. Babbitt, Burke, & Rousseau. This audio lecture given by Peter J. Stanlis in 1983, talks about politics and humanity in the writings of these critics and their take on Rousseau’s works.
     
  8. A Literary Education. Joseph Epstein lectures on the importance of providing a literary education to today’s students.
     

University Classes Teaching Writing

These classes contain lectures as well as other course material, all totally free, for you to learn important skills to improve your writing.

  1. The Creative Spark. This course teaches about the creative process through journal writings and studying artists of various media.
     
  2. Expository Writing: Autobiography – Theory and Practice. Study examples of famous autobiographies while learning the technical aspects of this type of writing, then practice writing some of your own autobiography.
     
  3. Writing and Experience: Culture Shock! Writing, Editing, and Publishing in Cyberspace. Explore American pop culture while practicing your writing skills for an online audience.
     
  4. Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues. Study traditional nature writing and the environmentalist essay in this class. Students will keep their own nature writing blog.
     
  5. Principles and Practice of Science Communication. If you want to learn science writing, this class is a must with students learning to develop skills to bring together "authors, audiences and media."
     
  6. The Science Essay. Study how segments of popular science evolved, how they relate to the general population, and how to write about science so that the concepts are clear and understandable to those without a science background.
     
  7. Writing and Experience: Exploring Self in Society. Learn to "construct a sense of self and a life narrative in relation to the larger social world" in this class.
     
  8. Expository Writing: Social and Ethical Issues in Print, Photography and Film. This course teaches students to expand their writing skills to create well-reasoned arguments and a polished product while studying popular film and literature.
     
  9. Expository Writing – Food for Thought: Writing and Reading about Food and Culture. Strengthen writing skills while you learn about the impact of food on culture.
     
  10. Consumer Culture. Take a look at the world of American consumerism in this writing class.
     
  11. Rhetoric. Rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is the focus of this class where students will learn about the art and craft of this style of writing.
     
  12. Writing on Contemporary Issues: Imagining the Future. Explore humanity in current society supported by readings and writings.
     
  13. Writing about Literature. Take a look at several types of literature as well as literary study tools and learn how to communicate effectively about literature.
     
  14. Writing and Reading the Essay. Through both reading and writing essays, explore the history and make-up of essays.
     
  15. Advanced Essay Workshop. Read non-fiction prose and refine your essay-writing skills in this advanced class.
     

Journalism

The following lectures and classes all have something to offer for those interested in writing journalism.

  1. Cleaning Your Copy. Learn to correct your grammar, spelling, and stylistic mistakes with the lectures in this class.
     
  2. Beat Basics and Beyond. Find out the basics about working a beat and get tips from veteran reporters as well with these lectures.
     
  3. Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision. The lectures in this class help you learn about the importance of rewriting and learn tips to improve your writing through editing.
     
  4. On the Beat: Writing Obituaries. Learn how to successfully research and write obituaries with the lectures in this class aimed at journalists of all skill levels.
     
  5. The Interview. Take advantage of this simulated environment to sharpen your interview skills with this class taught by Chip Scanlan.
     
  6. The Lead Lab. Learn how to craft better leads whether you are writing a story or reporting news.
     
  7. The Writer’s Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use. The tools you will learn about here will help you with existing writing and for future works as well.
     
  8. Using History to Write Sports: A Seminar Snapshot. Watch video highlights of a seminar presented by Sports Illustrated writer Alex Wolff as he shares personal experiences and his own tips and tactics for writing effective sports journalism.
     
  9. News Sense: The Building Blocks of News. Mary Ann Hogan will lead you through the basics of creating a news story as well as other topics such as meeting professional standards and techniques for turning jargon into understandable writing.
     
  10. Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: Creating Alternative Story Forms. Learn how to write alternative story forms, ways to edit these forms, and more with the lectures in this class taught by Andy Bechtel.
     
  11. After-Dinner Speech: The Media as Image-Twisters. Author and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge discusses how media shapes images of people and cultures in this historical audio lecture.