Book reviews are both a literary form and an act of literary service. They assess the themes and achievements of newly printed works, and they alert readers to new books that are worthy of attention. And while reviewing might seem at first like a thankless job, it has numerous benefits. Reviewing allows writers to share their critical thoughts, to build relationships with editors, and to validate the work of emerging authors and presses. In fact, learning to write reviews can help you establish your own diverse and sustainable literary career.
In this four-week course, we'll study the structure, technique and tone of literary book reviews. We'll discuss why we read them, where they appear, and how to write our own reviews and submit them to journals and websites. For the first couple weeks, we'll assess several contemporary reviews and discuss how to query editors and publishers. In the meantime, you'll read a contemporary book and compose your own review. Finally, we'll spend the final week or two of class workshopping your review to prepare it for submission. This class is open to writers in all genres and at all levels.
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.
*No class 8/12
- You'll complete one original book review (~1,000 words)
- You'll develop a plan for submitting your review to the journal or website of your choice
- We'll discuss reviewing within the field of literary service and citizenship
- We'll explore strategies for querying editors and submitting our work.
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will read several articles and reviews outside of class time. Students will also read and critique one another’s book reviews in the final week or two of class. The instructor will provide margin notes and end feedback on all book reviews prepared for workshop.
Next, and most importantly, each student will select a contemporary book to read (within a two-week span) on their own. This book should be one published recently—say, within the past six months or so. Also, this book should preferably be from a debut or underrepresented author, or from an independent press. Following that, students will compose reviews of their chosen book, which we'll workshop together.
Week 1: introductions; reviews as a literary genre; querying editors and publishers; the market for contemporary reviews; reading like a reviewer (and taking notes!)
One-week break: Students select a contemporary book and begin reading it
Week 2: style and structure for reviews; summary, paraphrase and direct quote; sample review discussion
Week 3: more sample review discussion; drafting and editing; service and citizenship; workshops
Week 4: workshops; the submission process; publishing Q&A
Joseph Holt is the author of the story collection Golden Heart Parade, forthcoming from Santa Fe Writers Project in Fall 2021. His writing has appeared in The Sun, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. He received an AWP Intro Journals Award in fiction, as well as scholarships to the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Community of Writers Workshops at Squaw Valley. He graduated from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.
"I loved GOLDEN HEART PARADE—it’s raw, dark, and surprisingly funny, reminiscent of Nathan Ballingrud or Alissa Nutting. There’s so much precision and verve in these stories; I was captivated the entire way through."
"The class was great and so was the professor! Professor Holt was knowledgeable, approachable, and engaging."
"I learned a lot during the workshops, both in my own writing and in my reading/critique of others' writing. I started out hesitant about critiquing others' work. I had trouble finding the words to say what I wanted to say, but by the end of the course, I felt more confident in discussions. I think that participating in discussions has helped me in my own writing because now I know what qualities to strive for in my own writing, and what to avoid."