Isn’t it time you transformed your ideas or handful of unfinished stories into a finished story collection?
At Catapult, we believe there’s a better, ambitious, and definitely less lonely way to compile a story collection. In this twelve-week master class for writers at every stage of the writing process—from the first couple stories to full collection draft—we will attempt to understand the mechanisms through which story collections are made. Due to the intensive nature of our work together, this class is limited to six writers.
Often, publishing a story “here and there“ is the first step on the journey toward publishing a collection. But how does that relatively spontaneous act—of writing, polishing and publishing a single story, or a few different stories, or even many, many stories, each different—transform into the more intentional act of creating a cohesive collection, one that can have lasting impact?
We will look at excerpts from story collections with impact, including Gabriel García Márquez’s Innocent Erendira And Other Stories, Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, Kelly Link’s Get In Trouble, ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, George Saunders’ Tenth of December, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth. We also have Sandra Cisneros’s, Tommy Orange’s, and Jennifer Egan’s linked short stories (respectively, The House on Mango Street, There, There, and A Visit from the Goon Squad). All these collections evolved over years, and included stories published in diverse places—yet they emerge as thematically linked and unified works and received more dazzling recognition than many novels. How? We will discuss, most excitingly, how the ’house’ that is a contemporary story collection, a form built out of whispers, clippings, moods, glitter and straw, can come to feel so much like a mansion.
Over the twelve weeks of our class, each writer will submit three short stories to the workshop which will serve as anchor stories for their collection. The class will read and leave line edits on up to 200 pages of each other’s manuscripts, but the discussion in class will focus on three stories—where to space them in a collection, how to connect themes, etc. Throughout the class, students will meet one-on-one with the instructor to create a plan to finish polishing and fleshing out the entire collection after the course.
Throughout the course, we will keep an evolving reading list of primarily optional readings tailored to specific concerns and questions brought up by workshop participants as they discuss their work. Some of the core texts will be books on craft, such as Matthew Salesses’s Craft in the Real World and The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction, while others will be essays and other practical overviews of how to publish a story collection.
Students will meet with the instructor following each of their workshops for specific, private feedback as well as an in-depth conversation about the workshop discussion, and also to set a plan in place for the work ahead, along with more practical querying/publishing concerns.
Writers will leave this class with a first (or eighth or fifty-seventh) draft of a story collection as well as the necessary tools to make the final draft the book they hope to make.
To apply, please submit up to 3 stories totaling at least 20 double spaced pages and not exceeding 30. The writing sample you submit with your application can but does not have to include what you submit for your workshop #1 materials.
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.
The three main takeaways for the course will be:
1. Learn how to draft and substantially revise at least 3 strong stories to anchor a collection, and use strategies to generate the rest of the stories in a collection (usually at least 4-8 more). For students who start with 3 very finished, polished, published stories at their entry into the course, the focus will be more on generating the rest of the collection.
2. Learn how to trace the arc and themes of your collection and know what it is about, in a pithy and exciting way that allows you to later shape query letters and/or talk about it with interested editors, using group and instructor feedback to revise the collection as a whole while in parallel revising fragments of specific stories
3. Learn how to read other story collections like a writer about to publish a story collection.
Students who complete this class will also be invited to a moderated agent panel over Zoom, during which agents who represent literary fiction will discuss the publishing industry and will answer questions from Catapult students. Panels will be offered by Catapult at least four times a year and students will receive an invitation to attend the next panel following the end of their class.
1. Identify personalized goals for the journey of getting to at least 3 finished, polished, published stories to anchor your collection (i.e. week by week goals will differ for students with one story at the start, vs. starting with three, etc.)
2. Participate in generative outlining, drafting, and analytic exercises to be described by the instructor during workshop meetings.
3. Contribute feedback to others manuscripts using shared document formats.
4. Estimated page lengths for writing assignments per week: 1) writing about 5-10 pages per week; 2) revising up to 30 pages per week (i.e. each week, an intense revision focus on one story); 3) contributing comments on one other classmate’s manuscript once a week (so everyone receives feedback from their peers).
Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician, writer and PEN American Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Prize finalist for White Dancing Elephants: Stories, which also received the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize. Her work has appeared in Salon, Lit Hub, Bustle, Longreads, Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by queer and other diverse women of color.
"WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS is a necessary book — and one that introduces a gifted voice to contemporary literature."
Chaya Bhuvaneswar's debut collection maps with great assurance the intricate outer reaches of the human heart. What a bold, smart, exciting new voice, well worth listening to; what an elegant story collection to read and savor.
“From the first page, I was swept away by the riveting undertow of Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s inventive and spellbinding stories, each moment cast in powerfully intelligent prose. WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS is a remarkable debut; we are so lucky to hold this book in our hands.”
"[A] pleasingly devious streak, at times reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, winds through the collection, offsetting the latent melodrama. Shocking late twists and disclosures furnish a sense of unpredictability ... [A] compulsively readable debut."
"How free is anyone, driven as we are by impulses deeper than thought, moving through inextricably connected societies? This debut author has created a host of original scenarios through which to probe this vital question—a question that’s both a long-running conversation between East and West and one of the intractable problems of the human condition."
"Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a *force* in her provocative debut short story collection WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS. These stories center on women of color who resist easy categorization — a therapist who is drawn to but disgusted by her young patient, a scholar desperate to justify her affair with her terminally ill best friend's husband, a woman remembering the girlfriend she abandoned when she accepted her arranged marriage. Bhuvaneswar fully inhabits them, breathing life into their dissonant, beautiful, complete selves. Reading it is a thrill, sure to leave you breathless."