Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

4-Week Online Nonfiction Workshop: Place & Setting as Character

In all forms of writing, a town or city, a room or yard, can be as much a protagonist as a human of flesh and bone. In this class, we’ll read a variety of excerpts from nonfiction—and also some fiction—that display a deep investment in place, with the aim of learning how different writers use settings in complex, vital forms. We will approach the issue of place as character in several ways:

- Explore how people change within different surroundings (to accommodate the place or in opposition to it);

- Discuss techniques for revealing hidden traits of yourself in order to give those attributes to your characters;

- Write nonfiction scenes and abstracts that can be used in future essays or reportage, or build to your final in-class essay.

Students with an interest in essay and memoir writing should enroll to learn more about the mechanics of who, what, where, when, and why as applied to writing. The final class project will be to compose and share a 1,200-1,500-word nonfiction excerpt that emphasizes setting in some way, with several shorter “warm-up” writing exercises given beforehand to help gradually build up to the final assignment.

All writers—from entry-level writers to experienced—are welcome in this course, which offers students a tremendous amount of craft and insight into writing about places. No prior writing or workshop experience is required. Just bring your love of the written word and a story to tell!

This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome and a computer to join your class meetings.


- Better understand the mechanics of place and setting and how to use them in your writing

- Writing prompts and exercises designed to deepen your ability to treat setting like a character

- Feedback will be provided by both the instructor and peers throughout the workshop

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

- Requires 5 to 10 hours of reading each week


- Readings: excerpts from “A Most American Terrorist,” Kaadzi Ghansah; The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck; “The American Man at Age Ten,” Susan Orlean; and more

- The final assignment is a 1,200-1,500 word piece, which is the standard length of short-form memoir and creative nonfiction or fiction

- Participants will be encouraged to submit their work at the end of the class to a variety of literary magazines and journals


Week 1: Introduction to place, as written through the Southern literary canon

Week 2: Deep involvement in place, strong family bonds and celebration of eccentricity (1st writing assignment)

Week 3: Embracing local tradition, a sense of impending loss, and themes of human endurance (2nd writing assignment)

Week 4: An inability to leave the past behind (final workshop and literary journal/publication pitching discussion)

Kenneth R. Rosen

Kenneth R. Rosen received a Calderwood Foundation Art of Nonfiction Grant from the MacDowell Colony and is a two-time finalist for the Livingston Award. He is the author of Troubled:  The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs and Bulletproof Vest. He divides his time between New England and Central Europe.


“Ken is an inspiring and knowledgeable teacher who always makes his subject approachable. He has a knack for instilling his 'can do' attitude in his students: his confidence is infectious!”

Dori Ostermiller author of OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD