Book reviews are 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 class, 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. Our goal is for each student to complete a book review they can submit for publication to a literary journal or other publishing venue. To begin the class, we'll survey the publishing landscape and discuss how to query editors and publishers. Following that, we'll assess contemporary reviews and begin drafting our own. In our final class meeting, we'll workshop your reviews and prepare them for submission. Please note that this class will meet every other Wednesday, with a week off between classes so that students will have ample time to complete the work of reviewing. This class is open to writers in all genres and at all levels.
*Class meets 3/3, 3/17, 3/31, and 4/14
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.
- 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
- 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!)
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 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."
"The class was great and so was the professor! Professor Holt was knowledgeable, approachable, and engaging."
"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."