Fiction | Master Class

1-Day Fiction Master Class: Emotional Impact in Short Stories

One way of seeing the difference between a short story and a novel is the difference between a pang in your heart compared to the tragedy of a whole life. It’s all a matter of how you feel the pain. Read a great story and there it is—right now—in your gut. A novel gives you some time between innings. A story, a great story, is complete and remorseless. 

In this one-day master class, we'll discuss the mystery of why certain stories have such a profound impact, talking about such intanglibles as compression, intensity, tension, and other hard to define ideas. We'll look at a wide variety of American and International writers – Eudora Welty, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver, Borges, Katherine Mansfield, Isaac Babel, Yasunari Kawabata, and others. Particular attention will be paid to beginnings. How does one launch a story that you've been carrying around for years on to the page? Students will open (and possibly end) a couple of their own new stories by the end of class. The long, boring middles, as Borges, once said, we will leave to Henry James.


- A deeper understanding of pacing and how it can effect a story's emotional tone

- Tools and techniques for beginning new stories

- A greater ability to discern what tools published writers used to engage their readers

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

Peter Orner

Peter Orner is the author of two novels, Love and Shame and Love and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, and two story collections, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge and Esther Stories. His most recent book, Am I Alone Here?, was a finalist for the NBCC Award. A new collection, Maggie Brown & Others, is forthcoming in 2019. A Fullbright scholar and recipient of Guggenheim and Lannan Foundation Fellowships, Orner has taught at Iowa, the University of Montana, Northwestern, and Warren Wilson. A longtime faculty member at San Francisco State University, he is now a professor at Dartmouth. 


“Peter Orner’s AM I ALONE HERE? is a collection of brisk, beautiful essays about reading, and (as a bonus) it’s also a wry, self-examining memoir of being a child, a partner, and a parent. It will remind you of important books you’ve forgotten and make you want to read ones you haven’t, and it really will make you feel less alone.”


“This book, thank god, defies any category. Although some will want to dive in randomly and skip around, reading these exquisite essays in order allows the book to develop a momentum and cumulative power that sneaks up on you and knocks you back.”

Dave Eggers author of HEROES OF THE FRONTIER

“The aching, wild quality of the books Orner reads echoes the consolations and heartbreaks of his own life. AM I ALONE HERE? is an unusual, delicate, utterly beautiful book.”

Kiran Desai author of THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS

“Peter Orner is one of our most brilliant, most idiosyncratic fiction writers, and with AM I ALONE HERE? proves himself to be one of our most brilliant, most idiosyncratic essayists, too. This book is a lovely, funny, and startlingly honest look at how literature doesn’t always do what we want it to, but how we need it anyway.”


“I don’t mind calling Peter Orner’s humane and wonderful AM I ALONE HERE? a great book. It is lucid about literature and recklessly frank about life. With humor and candor, it punctures the ambivalence about literature in this moronic age and gives us a dynamic reason to go on reading and writing.”

Thomas McGuane author of CROW FAIR: STORIES

“AM I ALONE HERE? [is] the most beautiful, moving book I’ve read in a very long time, and I’ll use any opportunity to mention it . . . I encourage anyone who loves reading, I mean who truly loves reading, to immediately go to a bookshop and demand a copy.”

Alexander Maksik author of SHELTER IN PLACE

“Book lovers will devour these genuine, personal tales about literature and reading.”


“Orner, a distinguished fiction writer, appears here as a devoted book lover, inviting the reader to an intimate and friendly book group of two . . . Readers will be delighted to join him, grab one of the stories he delves into, and enjoy his company.”