Online | Open-Genre | Workshop

10-Week Open-Genre Workshop: Writing Your Preoccupations

Is there something that has captivated you for a while? Do you know too much about trains, pandas, or orchids? Is there an issue that gets you fired up, a period in your life that’s been circling in your thoughts, or a place that haunts you?

In this mixed-genre class, we will explore a variety of ways to turn our preoccupations into writing. Our readings from writers such as Miriam Toews, Layli Long Soldier, Isabel Wilkerson, Patricia Smith, and more will range from works that grapple with personal and cultural histories to those that invoke our sense of wonder, inspiring us to look at the world anew again. As we read, we will also have a chance to turn our own preoccupations into writing through weekly generative exercises. Ultimately, the goal is to generate a first draft (or a beginning of a first draft) of a long-form project.

In the second half of the course, writers will have a chance to workshop their writing. Workshops will provide students with the chance to both receive constructive feedback and further the class’ discussion on approaches to writing preoccupations.

Writers will leave this class with a deeper understanding of how to write into and from their preoccupations as well as feedback on a first-draft of a long-form project.

*No class April 17th

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.  


- Explored and experimented with a variety of ways to write about their preoccupations

- Generated a portfolio of generative writing and a first draft of a long-form project

- Built a supportive community and received writing feedback from workshops

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


While this workshop is ideal for participants with some writing and workshop experience, it is open to writers of all levels and genres. Writers who wish to work on something they’ve already begun writing are welcome, too. Do note that, although this is a mixed-genre course, most of our readings will focus on poetry and nonfiction. Each week, we will read 1-2 readings, so writers will have to come prepared to discuss the readings, try new approaches to writing, and provide constructive feedback for their peers. Workshop submissions should be under 25 double-spaced pages for prose and 15 single-spaced pages for poetry.


Week 1: Personal & Family Histories

Week 2: Recreating Contexts

Week 3: Personas & Fictional Approaches

Week 4: Writing from Documents

Week 5: A Sense of Wonder

Week 6: Recess week (no class meeting) The intention of a “recess week” is to allow participants to catch up on writing and prepare to switch gears as we pivot to the second part of the course.

Week 7: The Art of Meandering; Workshop

Week 8: Crafting Experience; Workshop

Week 9: Workshop

Week 10: Workshop

Week 11: Workshop

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