Online | Fiction | Open-Genre | Seminar

1-Day Online Open-Genre Seminar: Layering Writing That Feels "Flat"

One of the most frequent critiques of a piece of writing is that it feels “flat.” But what does that mean? And how might we more concretely imagine possibilities for revision?

In this one-day, two-hour seminar, we will discuss how writing can gain dimension from the accumulation of layers and texture, often through the juxtaposition of its individual parts. We will draw from non-Western forms of storytelling to reimagine possibilities beyond Western structural models, and then apply those concepts to a close reading of Jayne Anne Phillips’s short story “Wedding Picture” (no need to read the story ahead of time).

While most of the examples in this class will be drawn from fiction, nonfiction writers and poets of all experience levels should find these discussions useful as well. Regardless of the genre, students should bring to class a work-in-progress that they would like to revise, which we will use for a brief writing exercise .

Class meetings 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.


- Concrete and accessible approaches to “un-flatten” a piece of writing

- Close reading techniques to identify a story’s layers and texture

- Application of class concepts in a revision of your own work

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students do not need to do any reading or writing prior to class time.

Simon Han

Simon Han is the author of Nights When Nothing Happened (Riverhead Books, 2020). His short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Electric Literature, and the Texas Observer. He's received awards from the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, and Vanderbilt University, where he earned his MFA. He has most recently taught at the University of Tulsa and the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.


"Han’s expansive sympathy and twilight lyricism make NIGHTS WHEN NOTHING HAPPENED a poignant study of the immigrant experience. This is an author who understands on a profound level the way past trauma interacts with the pressures of assimilation to disrupt a good night’s sleep, even a life.”

The Washington Post

“NIGHTS WHEN NOTHING HAPPENED is very much about the private, shadowy parts of ordinary lives, but Han’s evocative writing is anything but ordinary. . . . a brief novel best read slowly, so one can savor the resonance and originality Han wrings from the quotidian. . . . Han’s gift at zeroing in on matters of the conflicted heart is its own reward.”


“Han displays incredible range as a novelist, oscillating between honest, almost tangibly real scenes, opaque dreams and refractive memories. . . . . [his] prose is vivid yet restrained, and his characters are multidimensional and alive. Emotionally resonant and packed with nuance, this is an exemplary debut novel.”


"Simon is an excellent teacher, writer, and critic. The atmosphere in his classroom was always encouraging and challenging and drove me to strive for excellence in my writing. I valued his critiques on my work and was truly inspired by the writing he shared with us. I really felt that I grew in his classroom and created some of the first short stories I felt proud of. I would recommend his class to anyone!"

former student

"Other than being an amazing writer, Simon is an excellent teacher, who offers constructive feedback that helped me grow as a writer. When giving feedback, he doesn't tell you what is wrong with it, but asks you questions about the choices you make and helps you brainstorm ideas of where to go from there."

former student