Online | Open-Genre | Master Class

2-Week Online Open-Genre Master Class: Writing the Body


In this two-week master class for writers of all genres, we will tackle how to render the human body, in all its complexity, on the page. Too often, bodies are skirted in literature, with writers and readers making implicit assumptions that a protagonist's body is simply functioning “normally” and not detailing much of their characters’ physical experiences or realities. But what, really, is "normal," and what about all the fictional characters—and “real people” in memoirs—who may not fall within that physical range? The human body is capable of a wide array of extremes, from illness to disability to intense sexual desire. How do we transcend the gap between language and physical experience to capture flesh and blood on the page, from pain to bliss?

In this intensive workshop, we will do exercises to tap into our own body-writing, while also examining the styles of several writers who deeply explore this risky and powerful terrain. We will read and respond to excerpts from those writers currently re-inventing contemporary body writing, from Lidia Yuknavitch to Roxane Gay to Stephen Elliott to Emily Rapp Black. In addition to in-class writing exercises and prompts, every student will also have the chance to write a final piece (may be up to 3,000 words) that will receive instructor feedback (a paragraph that addresses what's working, as well as what might be improved) after the workshop is complete. The final project may be fiction, nonfiction or poetry, and will explore an area of the writer’s choice, ranging from aging to childbirth, from sexuality to illness, from disability to extreme sports (or both at once!): the only requirement of the final project is that it be deeply physical, and that you confront writing about something that intimidated you coming into the course.

Writers will leave this course with a clearer sense of how to resist cliches, confront their own internal censor, and how writing the body develops fuller characters and propels narratives, as well as carrying the potential to resist forces of ableism, sexism, ageism, racism, and limiting hetero-normative stereotypes.


- a better understanding of how to write the body in a compelling manner

- a sense of how to create realistic characters that resist cliches

- instructor feedback on a piece created during the course

- better confidence, on and off the page!

- access to a nurturing community of writers and readers and an engaged mentor; free admission to Catapult's write-ins and student events, as well as access to our monthly digest of submission, residency, and award deadlines 

Gina Frangello

Gina Frangello’s fourth book of fiction, Every Kind of Wanting was included on several “best of” lists for 2016, including in Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Review of Books. Her last novel, A Life in Men , was selected for the Target Emerging Authors series. She is also the author of Slut Lullabies and My Sister’s Continent. She has nearly 20 years of experience as an editor, and founded Other Voices Books and the fiction section of The Nervous Breakdown. Her writing has been published in Salon, Dame, Ploughshares, the Boston Globe, BuzzFeed, among others.


“Urgent and stirring.”

Laila Lalami Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

“Desire is at the heart of Frangello’s work, and whether we can survive it is central to this raw, wonderful, and unmistakably contemporary novel. This is the future that our conservative forebears were scared of, in all its messy, hopeful glory.”

J. Ryan Stradal NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of KITCHEN OF THE GREAT MIDWEST

“Gina Frangello masterfully captures the craziness of everyday life: messy and complicated and still, always, worth living. EVERY KIND OF WANTING is a wonder.”

Marcy Dermansky author of THE RED CAR and BAD MARIE