“Each of us is an atlas of sorts,” Rebecca Solnit wrote. Place, then—where we are, where we've been, where we are going—is crucial to our writing. Place includes physical surroundings but stretches beyond them too, affecting the moods, attitudes and outlooks of the writer (and their characters). In this course, open to writers of all genres, we will examine two different approaches to writing about place: the insider and the outsider. Each session will consider one point of view with a reading, lecture, and group discussion, culminating in a final writing exercise. Our goal is to explore how to use the full extent of a place—its physical, emotional, and psychological elements—to better effect in our own writing.
Note: this class is a craft seminar, not a workshop, and does not include feedback on written work.
- The opportunity to closely and critically read fiction and nonfiction selections chosen for their sense of place and use of place as a narrative element
- Written lectures pertaining to each reading and its craft lessons
- Instructor-led group discussions about the readings and the topic of place as a rhetorical device
- A culminating writing exercise designed to evoke and strengthen our conception of place
- Access to a nurturing community of writers and readers
- The full resources of Catapult's custom-built online classes platform (including live text chat, story editor, and discussion threads)
- More confidence as a writer, on and off the page!
Courtney Balestier's writing has appeared in The New Yorker online, Lucky Peach, the New York Times, Oxford American, New York, and Wired. She has been anthologized in Cornbread Nation 7: The Best of Southern Food Writing and nominated for a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award and a Pushcart Prize. She is a writing editorial board member of Looking at Appalachia. A native West Virginian, she is at work on a novel about identity, class and the Appalachian "Hillbilly Highway" migration to Detroit, where she is currently based. She also hosts the writing podcast WMFA.
"Courtney Balestier is the kind of magazine editor service writers dream about. Her vision for the piece is compelling and her expectations made clear from assignment. She knows her readership inside and out and will help you sculpt your copy until it speaks to them, without losing your voice in the process. Her line edits are incisive and there's never any runaround when it comes to revisions."
"I had the great pleasure of working with Courtney Balestier as her editor at LUCKY PEACH magazine. There she wrote, among other things, a piece ostensibly about ranch dressing, but actually a lovely picture into growing up in West Virginia, rooted in—and evocative of—time and place. As a writer, Courtney is intelligent, responsive, and hardworking; as a human, she's helpful, empathetic, and curious. One would be fortunate to have her as a teacher!"