Online | Nonfiction | Seminar

1-Day Nonfiction Seminar: Possibilities in Speculative Nonfiction

Are fiction and nonfiction necessarily mutually exclusive? What might the speculative mode bring to creative nonfiction, and how can we employ speculative techniques in a way that is ethical?

In this three-hour seminar, we will explore the possibilities of the emerging form called “speculative nonfiction.” We will read and discuss excerpts from a number of writers from Carmen Maria Machado to Michael Ondaatje, and apply speculative techniques—such as externalization (speculative elements used to embody psychological experience) and “flights of fancy” (crafting imaginative situations within the realms of nonfiction)—to our own writing through in-class writing exercises. While this is not a requirement, participants will also have an opportunity to share the writing generated in class.

By the end of this seminar, participants will have 1) developed an understanding of speculative nonfiction and 2) generated several pieces of new writing that they can continue working on in the future.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. The class meeting will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom call will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Develop an understanding of speculative nonfiction, its methods, and its ethics

- Read examples of contemporary speculative nonfiction

- Experiment with three speculative techniques through in-class writing exercises

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


This seminar is open to all writers. No prior experience is necessary, but do come prepared to discuss the readings and try new approaches to writing. There will be no formal feedback given in this seminar.


(All times listed ET)



Define and discuss: what is speculative nonfiction? Is speculative nonfiction ethical?


Read and discuss one example of speculative nonfiction

First writing exercise

8pm-8.40pm minutes

Read and discuss the second set of examples

Second writing exercise

8.40-8.50pm: 10 minute break


Read and discuss the third set of examples

Third writing exercise


Opportunity to share writing


Zining Mok

Mok Zining is obsessed with random things: orchids, arabesques, sand. She is a Singaporean writer and recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, where she taught creative writing. Currently, Zining works as a freelance researcher, editor, and writing teacher. She spends most of her free time working on The Earthmovers, an essay collection about sand. The Orchid Folios is her first book.


“Mok Zining’s breathtaking, debut collection THE ORCHID FOLIOS almost defies description. It is a collage of disparate information; a book of lyric poems; a gathering of official documents and letters, interspersed with monologues of nameless women and florists; an informative guide to the history of orchids in Singapore, and includes a list of orchids ‘named after foreign dignitaries.’ THE ORCHID FOLIOS is dazzling, precise, sharp, playful, poignant, and engaging. Most importantly, it is a signal event marking the presence of a brilliant young writer who addresses global culture and the upside-down world we live in.”

John Yau

“The orchid here is no mere motif. In its tropic desire and ambition, it achieves such compelling agency. This lyric authority is self-aware, a florid assemblage of texts that decentre, yet return to an appreciable heart. This heart is where Mok Zining’s collection is at, something alluring yet elusive, palpable yet only proffered in wisps, in whispers. What is being named, and what metaphors take root, take flight? In how cultivated its constituents remain, this very chic collection swells into a resplendent flourish. What a beautiful, entrancing strangeness!”

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé Winner of Singapore Literature Prize

“An evocative book of intersections and entanglements about Singapore history and culture, done in charming and skeptical poems. Mok Zining’s THE ORCHID FOLIOS centers on multiple, oblique stories about the national flower, colonial politics, policy and meanings. The work is serial, documentary and notational. The drama of orchids, their beauty, hybridity, and uses in cosmetics all together create allusive allegories, mingling cosmopolitanisms with backstories.”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

“Everything Zining did was incredibly helpful to me. I really enjoyed coming to this class. She made me feel more than just standardized and helped me have more confidence in my ideas and writing style. She provided amazing conferences with great feedback on our papers. I also really liked the examples she provided for us. I have already recommended her to a friend of mine who is taking this writing class next semester.”

former student

“I really liked this course. It was very well laid out and covered the basics of writing poetry clearly and effectively. Zining was always kind and encouraging, but was also very good at pointing out nuanced areas for growth in my work.”

former student

“Zining gave really good concrete feedback on all of my writing, and on my peers' writing as well. She really listened to what people said about their writing and gave suggestions based off of what they said they wanted for their pieces. I also liked the way Zining ran workshops. I think dividing the time and having certain parts designated for certain questions or comments was helpful and kept workshops organized.”

former student