I'm a published novelist and freelance writer, editor, and audio tech. Check out my journal for creative writing tips, short stories, and news. To learn more about my books or my services, navigate using the links above. 

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Letter to Students: Great Expectations

Every week of Writing Games class, I send an email to my current students with a few extra thoughts on writing and the themes or techniques we explored that week, plus take-home exercises and more. The Letters to Students blog series collects highlights from some of these emails. To sign up for a Writing Games class, visit my Events page.


Workity workity work

A photo posted by @hannahsternberg88 on Sep 21, 2015 at 9:46am PDT


Expectations are powerful drivers of human emotion. There are two levels on which we can experiment with expectations in our writing: on the meta level, we can tamper with readers' expectations, and within the story we can explore characters' expectations and how they shape their lives and personalities.


Most of our in-class games focused on reader expectations, specifically how our personal and cultural definitions of genres shape our expectations of what's "supposed" to happen in a book. I strongly encourage everyone to try their hand at writing a few genre-standard tales. Learn the rules before you break them! Then you'll be able to break them in self-aware and clever ways. This is also something we can explore in everything we read; pay attention to how books, stories, movies, TV shows, and poems conform to, or overturn, reader expectations.

Also pay attention to how it makes you feel when an author overturns your expectations. Are you angry, betrayed, sad, or intrigued? You may be interested in overturning a reader's expectations to make a point, but remember those feelings -- your point may be lost if all the reader can focus on is how mad they are that things didn't go the way they were expecting. Tread that line carefully.

As a take-home, I encouraged everyone to write a description of a character, based solely on that character's expectations.


To view all the Letters to Students, click here. 


Letter to Students: Interbeing and Describing a Setting

Every week of Writing Games class, I send an email to my current students with a few extra thoughts on writing and the themes or techniques we explored that week, plus take-home exercises and more. Starting this week, I'll be sharing highlights from some of these emails on the blog. To sign up for a Writing Games class, visit my Events page.

This week we focused on setting. Setting includes both time period, and place. Often, setting is something we take for granted -- or wish we could. Especially for those of us driven by character development or plot (as opposed to description), setting is often something we rush through, or something we sketch broadly in a "cardboard cut-out" manner. However, a thoughtful writer can turn setting into a virtual character in his or her story, poem, or play. Last year, I wrote a blog post on the topic. It also details some of the exercises we did today, if you want to try them at home. You can read it here


In addition to those practical tips on how to enhance your story with a sense of place, I mentioned Thich Nhat Hanh's concept of "interbeing." Simply put, everything is connected -- people with other people with other living things with inanimate things. To think deeply about setting is to begin to feel (on some level) that sense of interbeing. It's how a place becomes a "character." And that heightened awareness is one of the ways that our writing lives can improve our personal lives, and the world around us.


To view all the Letters to Students, click here. 


Goners: A Short Story

A drifter. A beach town. A woman who emerges from the sea. Read "Goners," a free short story by Hannah Sternberg, and get lost in a gothic and mysterious world. Click to read:

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Turning the page into summer

(Yes, I meant it both ways.)



Subscribers to my email list (signup in the sidebar to your right) got a lineup of my late spring and summer classes, and a reflection on how summer influences creative life differently from other seasons. If you missed the email, you can still find an updated list of upcoming classes and events on the Events page.

I've also added a page called Class Resources, which you may have noticed in the top navigation. This is primarily for my students, and collects links and recommended reading from each of my classes. However, non-students might still find it entertaining and enlightening if they're interested in learning more about writing, publishing, marketing, or any of the above.

Coming soon, I'll be posting a new short story! My Pinterest followers are aware I've been ramping up my plans to sew more clothes soon. I just ordered a mini sewing machine, which is about all I have space for in our cramped but adorable apartment. I feel like I've been in a frenzy of creative activity of all kinds lately -- sewing more, cooking new meals, transitioning into my summer wardrobe, gardening on the patio. But I recognize that sometimes all these wonderful, happy little bursts of creativity mask a deeper fear of working on my writing -- something that other people will judge and scrutinize. I don't much care what you think of my homemade skirt (unless you like it!) or my patio garden, because they're not my livelihood or the expression of my deepest imaginings. All those other expressions aren't a waste of time at all -- they're a precious and important part of living -- but last night I exerted a bit of discipline and set the sewing patterns aside to finish "Goners," a short story about time, brotherhood, and creepy women who emerge from the sea. I hope you like it.


Now Online: Reading Like a Writer Audio

Did you miss my February library talk on reading like a writer? I've finally edited and uploaded the audio so you can listen at home! You can listen using the player below, or download it here as an mp3 and listen on your phone or other device while you're on the go!


Enjoy! And thanks again to all who attended on that cold, cold night in February!


Fresh New Spring Classes!

Check out the events page for information on an exciting new crop of spring classes!



Two new events, one new blog post, and a free Kindle!

Greetings beautiful website readers! A few items:

There are two new events on the events page for you to add to your calendars! First up is "Reading Like a Writer," my talk at the SE branch of the DC Public Library, on February 12 at 7pm. The library will be raffling off a free Kindle pre-loaded with my books to one of the attendees!

Then, check out my upcoming class at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop -- I'll be teaching eight more weeks of Writing Games starting February 23! Register at the CHAW website: click here.

New online: I have another blog post up at CHAW's website, based on one of my class themes. Check it out: Making the Leap: Busting a Writer's Worst Stumper.

And, for my students: tonight I mentioned a blog post I'd written two years ago as a reference for anyone interested in learning more about publishing. Since it's now buried in my blog, here's a link for anyone who's looking: Hannah's Quick and Dirty Guide to Book Publishing.


Be a Farm-to-Table Art Consumer

A recent article in Slate detailed how female music artists' contributions to their albums often go uncredited, or highly questioned, whereas men's leadership over their creative projects is often accepted uncritically. In an interview with Bjork for Pitchfork, music journalist Jessica Hopper paraphrased Joni Mitchell: "whichever man was in the room with her got credit for her genius." Ultimately, though, that article and the interview it referenced made me realize how little I know about music production. I don't really know much about how the idea of a song makes it from the artist's head to the album to the consumer's ears. I hadn't realized how big of a slight it is for a woman to be denied production credit for her own album, because I don't really know what goes into a production credit. And I think I'm not alone.

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The Biggest Mistake Aspiring Writers Can Make

I’ve heard it a lot in writing circles. I’ve heard it in classes, and online critique groups, in blog posts and major magazine articles. “How am I supposed to be successful when the only stuff that’s selling well is crap like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey?” “Editors are only acquiring stupid books that have vampires/apocalyses/BDSM in them. No one’s interested in really good books.” “Readers have really lowered their standards. No one’s buying challenging, unique books anymore.” “I’m never going to compete against the people who publish a dozen shlocky romance novels a year and get a million downloads of them.” Harboring that attitude is the worst mistake an aspiring writer can make. Even if you have great potential and drive, a bucketful of talent and a few good connections, I genuinely believe that this attitude can stunt a writer’s success. Here’s why:

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Insta-Adventures with Bulfinch!

Back when I launched Bulfinch, I posted a challenge to anyone who had pre-ordered, or requested a knight toy:


How to get your knights...and join the fun!

A photo posted by @hannahsternberg88 on Aug 8, 2014 at 6:41am PDT

...and, at long last, I present to you the adventures of your army of knights! I'll do my best to collect the ones that were sent to me, but if I miss something, reach out to me on Instagram or use the contact form to send me a note! Some friends submitted their photos on Facebook, so I've copied them with their permission.

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