Often when we hit stalls and stumbles in our work, it's because we have not gone deep enough or have not yet mapped our story’s true heart. How do we find our way there? One way is research and reporting. If the old adage is “write what you know,” points out Margot Livesay, “research helps us know more.”
In this four-week seminar for writers engaged in a fiction or nonfiction project at any stage, we will investigate how the four modes of research—1) Archival documents/data records 2) Newspaper articles/court documents 3) Interviewing and experts and 4) Experience and self research—can be used to check and correct our own memories, open up new corners of the universe previously unknown to us, teach us about experiences we could never have, and instruct us in trades, skills, processes, and the inner workings of communities.
Whether you are pursuing a story, novel, essay, memoir or book of reported nonfiction, this course will introduce you to the basics of using research and reporting to tunnel more deeply into your characters, settings, time periods, and subcultures, steadily steering you away from tired choices and towards the insight and surprise that only the real world can offer you.
This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.
- Create believable and accurate historical details for both fiction and nonfiction
- Gain experience and practical skills using the following kinds of research: Interview, Observation/experience, Newspaper/journalism, Court records/death records/public records, Letters/papers/archival work, Specialty/niche book, Memoir/biography, Lecture, Relevant movies/music/art/criticism, self-research
- Be able to read a finished work and recognize the kinds of research that went into creating it
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Week 1: What do we mean by research?
Readings: Mary Karr, Margot Livesey, Anne Lamott, Jim Shepard, Jennifer Egan
Direct observation exercise
Week 2: Observation & direct experience
Readings: Katherine Page Hall, Anne Lamott, Zora Neale Hurston, Joseph Mitchell
Week 3: Libraries, archives, & firsthand accounts
Readings: Ali Selim, Annie Proulx, Murray Bail, Annie Patchett, Theodore Kornweibel, Bruce White, Geoffrey Wolff
Public record exercise
Week 4: The public record & wrapping up
Readings: Alberto Martinez, Bruce Joshua Miller, Alexandra Marzanos
Emma Copley Eisenberg’s fiction, essays, and reportage have appeared or are forthcoming in McSweeney’s, The Paris Review online, Granta, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, Guernica, AGNI, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and others. Emma's work has been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, named to Longreads' list of Best Crime Reporting 2017, and chosen as a notable story for the Best American Short Stories 2018. Her first book, THE THIRD RAINBOW GIRL, is forthcoming from Hachette Books in 2020. She lives in Philadelphia, and co-directs Blue Stoop, a community hub for the literary arts.
"Emma is an incisive, smart, and skilled writer who makes it a priority to tackle issues related to social justice and cultural criticism that often are being ignored or misrepresented. She is also a lovely and welcoming presence, creative in her approach, and a great listener, all marks of an excellent journalist."
"I had the great privilege to know Emma as a student in several writing classes. From the start, she stood out not only as an exceptional writer, but as someone who was willing to work hard to hone her craft, who could take criticism with aplomb, and who was generous in her feedback to others. In addition, Emma has one of the most important characteristics of a successful writer; she's got an innate curiosity about other people, and a desire to learn. Because of this, she's empathetic and has the ability to make people feel at ease, which in turn leads to them revealing their own compelling stories. In short, I recommend Emma highly and have the utmost confidence that she will be successful in any field or job she sets her sights on."
"I was Emma's teacher in an online fiction workshop at Catapult dedicated to literary humor. Emma was a thoughtful, courteous, diligent, sensitive, and ambitious member of our class. She has a very active mind, but she's also able to listen sensitively to others and I can highly recommend her in any of her creative pursuits."
"Emma's diagrams were phenom and made me think about stories visually in ways I've never done so before. Extremely helpful. Also, her recommendations for authors based on our likings and writings was a big plus."
"I thought Emma did a great job at balancing reading/ learning/ discussion and writing in this class. I appreciated the mini-lessons that she'd include, as well as the short writing warm ups. Overall, it was easy to follow her lead in class. She always knew what was coming next and it never felt like she was phoning it in. (Which I really appreciated, since it wasn't cheap to enroll!) I felt like she structured the class with the right amount of assignments/expectations. It wasn't too much to manage, but it still required thought and attention."