Online | Open-Genre | Seminar

3-Week Online Seminar: Start Writing

“Alison Kinney is a world-class writer and inspiring, intuitive educator.” - Michele Thomas, writer with bylines at and Edible Brooklyn

“You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” These final words of Samuel Beckett’s novel The Unnamable form the core of any writing practice, from private journaling to publishing essays, stories, and books. How do we get to the end of a book, when we can’t even draft a first sentence?

In this three-week online crash course, we will explore the difficulties of getting started: identifying topics to write about, developing ideas, setting down first sentences and paragraphs, and shaping a narrative out of those beginnings. This class will help writers of essays, memoirs, short stories, or novels get started, then acquire tools for persisting through self-doubt and writer’s block.

In lieu of workshop, weekly writing exercises will help you practice brainstorming and drafting techniques; then build character, drama, and argument through relevant scenes, dialogue, and detail. You will explore short lectures as well as notable published readings and participate in group discussion of craft and best writing practices. By the end of the course, you will also have embarked on a rough draft of a story, as well as developing strategies and tools for turning ideas into pieces in the future.


Week 1: Intros: getting started and setting goals.

Week 2: Developing Ideas: structure IS story; writing change.

Week 3: Revising, Re-envisioning: rewriting your exercises, and regarding your own process, kindly, to nurture it!


- Close reading of fiction and nonfiction selections to provide the language and critical mindset to examine and revisit your own work

- The instructor's written lectures, as well as the instructor-led group discussion, explore craft, useful writing practices, and tools for building more confidence as a writer

- The elements and practices to help you build a sustainable, long-term writing practice

- Writing exercises to strengthen your skills, but also provide (and refine!) material for the draft of your own manuscript

- Access to a nurturing community of writers and readers, as well as the full resources of Catapult's custom-built online classes platform (including live text chat and discussion threads); exclusive access to our alumni newsletter, a monthly roundup of submission opportunities (prizes, residencies, lit mags, grants, and more); plus a 10% discount on all future classes

Alison Kinney

Alison Kinney is the author of a book of cultural history, HOOD (Bloomsbury Publishing, Object Lessons Series, 2016). She is a regular correspondent at The Paris Review Daily; her writing has also appeared online or in print at The New, Harper’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Guardian, The New York Times, Longreads, Hyperallergic, VAN Magazine, The Atlantic, L.A. Review of Books, New Republic, History Today, LitHub, and other publications. She received an MFA in creative writing from The New School.


“Ms. Kinney's combination of expertise, comprehensiveness, and kindness makes her a fantastic writing teacher. Her critiques of student manuscripts would always get right to the core of what was necessary to elevate and improve a piece of writing. She did so in a manner that was comprehensive, always suggesting two or three different directions a student might want to take their manuscript in. Her critiques, even when cautioning writers about problematic aspects of their manuscript, were strictly constructive and allowed an atmosphere where students felt safe to unrestrainedly share their work. In addition to our manuscripts Ms. Kinney would provide extensive notes and suggestions on our two weekly exercises. This enormous amount of practicable feedback allowed me to improve and grow as a writer during the duration of this class and I cannot recommend Ms. Kinney highly enough as a professor of writing.”

former student

“In spry and intelligent prose, Alison Kinney tours the many uses of the hood in human culture, exploring seemingly unconnected byways and guiding the reader through some surprising connections. The ubiquitous hood, she shows, is an artifact of human relationships with power, the state, and one another. By the end of my time with HOOD, I had laughed out loud, sighed in exasperation, and felt by turns both furious and proud.”


“Provocative and highly informative, Alison Kinney’s HOOD considers this seemingly neutral garment accessory and reveals it to be vexed by a long history of violence, from the Grim Reaper to the KKK and beyond—a history we would do well to address, and redress. Readers will never see hoods the same way again.”

Sister Helen Prejean author of DEAD MAN WALKING

“Alison Kinney is remarkable at pulling out your imagination. She gives you insights and advice that make you look at your own work in a new light. Her passion and eagerness to teach comes out in her lessons and it was never a dull moment with her. Her enlightenment about our various readings always kept me engaged and wanting to know more. It was my first time diving into the world of non-fiction, and I'm glad it was with Alison because she motivated me to keep writing even when I thought I couldn't.”

former student

“Alison Kinney is a world-class writer and inspiring, intuitive educator. She really curates the learning experience for students through superb sample texts from a truly diverse set of writers and her own remarkably insightful editorial eye. She takes classes through the entire writing process, from concept to research, editing, and publishing.”

Michele Thomas writer and editor