Online | Open-Genre | Workshop

4-Week Online Open-Genre Workshop for Black Writers: Language as a Place of Struggle

“The oppressed struggle in language to recover ourselves, to reconcile, to reunite, to renew. Our words are not without meaning, they are an action, a resistance. Language is also a place of struggle.” - bell hooks, “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness”

For writers, there are few feelings greater than that of what we feel when we begin a new writing project. We rise early, ensure our devices are charged and pens are primed and dive head first into an exciting new world of our own creation. However, after some time, that feeling of exhilaration can devolve into frustration, fatigue and the oh-so-dreaded writer’s block. I used to allow these feelings to keep me trapped in this place, but as my work and perspective have matured, I realized that those moments were an indication that I was finally scratching beneath the surface of my ideas, my craft, and most importantly, my inner self.

In this eight-week, four-session course, we will examine short articles, plays/monologues, poetry, and academic texts to identify the boundaries we place upon ourselves, the boundaries society places upon us, and the ways in which we can work “outside those margins” in a manner that will elevate our thinking and overall ability as literary artists.

Each session will open with a warm up activity that all participants will be invited to share or reflect upon. Afterwards, the workshop will be divided into two parts: “Conceptual” and “Craft.” During the “Conceptual” component, the instructor will facilitate group discussions about the higher-level takeaways from the week’s readings and how they can be used to aid in tackling the subjects and issues we struggle with most in our writing.

During the “Craft” component, the instructor will guide the students through interdisciplinary exercises that push against traditional writing conventions, which will include audio journaling, story sketching, and breaking form. Each week, participants should come to class prepared to discuss the week’s reading and complete all in-class activities. By the end of the eight-week period, all participants will complete the first draft of a short writing project, as well as possess new craft and conceptual tools to employ in their future endeavors.

This course is open to Black women, Black femmes, and Black non-binary folks with any level of writing experience.

*Class meets every other week, on October 9th, October 23rd, November 6th, and November 20th.

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.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Interdisciplinary tools and exercises that will expand participants' conceptual thinking, writing capability and creative innovation

- Completed first draft of a short writing project that addresses a topic of struggle or challenge for the participant/tackles the participant's "margins"

- A broader understanding of the importance of language and writing struggles as tools in actualizing your full potential as an artist and human being within society

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

Each week, participants will complete a warm-up and one literary craft exercise during the workshop. They will also be expected to complete course readings and participate in group discussions. Over the course of the eight weeks, participants will employ the techniques they've learned in class to complete the first draft of a short writing project (less than 25 double-spaced pages) that engages with the "margins"/struggle/challenge they identify at the start of the course. After submission, the instructor will provide each student with detailed, written feedback and tips for how they can move forward with a longer version of the project.

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1 - bell hooks, "Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness" (Article)

Conceptual: Discussion of our experience with language and our places of literal and literary struggle. Craft: Discussion of writer’s block, storytelling and guided facilitation of audio journaling/dictation.

Week 2 - Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Book, Chapter 1)

Conceptual: Discussion of the intimacies at play within society and our daily lives and the intimacies between our different writing disciplines. Craft: Guided facilitation of interdisciplinary writing exercises. (i.e. writing a monologue poem, narrating a short story through song lyrics, etc.)

Week 3 - Aleshea Harris, IS GOD IS (Play, Excerpts)

Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf (Poetry/Play/Choreopoem, Excerpts)

Conceptual: Discussion of rule breaking and the importance of it in facilitating progress. Craft: Guided facilitation in breaking literary form and generating new forms.

Week 4 - Crystal Valentine, "Black Privilege" (Poetry)

Rasheed Copeland, "My Mans n' Them” (Poetry)

Conceptual: Discussion of the struggle within us and finding the path forward through them. Craft: Guided facilitation of exercise that outlines the difference between writing to self vs. writing to others and showcase of final writing projects.

Najya Williams

Born and raised in "Chocolate City," Najya Williams (she/her) is a poet, filmmaker and performing artist. She received her BA from Harvard College and is an incoming M1 at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Her words have been included in several publications, including Black Youth Project, Spoken Black Girl, Black Girls in Om, and Healing Points. In addition to her essays, you can learn more about Najya's poetry chapbook "Cotton," spoken word album "mad black woman," and her original short films via her website, najyawilliams.com.

Testimonials

“The exercises you offered are great and I felt like they challenged me. I’m excited to try them again on my own.”

former student

“Your prompts gave me enough of a challenge, but I still felt like I could complete them! Thank you for a great class.”

former student

“Just wanted to connect with you. I had an incredible time. I look forward to taking another class with you in the future!”

former student

“Najya has been the best help for me in my writing journey and publishing process. Not only does she continuously send me writing prompts that we do together, but she helped me get my debut poetry collection published. She made it super easy for me by spelling things out for me in regard to self-publishing options, providing me with a checklist of things to get done, ensuring I was successful. She never made me feel like I wasn’t in control of this process and she gave me her suggestions based on her own experience. Najya flagged things in my writing that I would have missed had I not had her extra set of eyes to make sure I was being inclusive as possible. I have been writing poetry for at least 16 years and I know for a fact that I would not have published my poems any time soon if I didn’t have Najya in my corner pushing and guiding me. It has been a pleasure to grow as a writer with her, but also into a friendship.”

Brookie Madison