Online | Fiction | Nonfiction | Seminar

4-Week Open-Genre Seminar: Steal Like a Writer

As writers we're often told, "Write what you know." But how can we playfully and ethically "steal" the words of other writers and storytellers to inspire works that reach beyond our own experience?

For decades, beloved authors have mined other texts as source material to create new novels, poems, and even histories, from Herman Melville, who lifted heavily from real-life whaling accounts and scientific studies to create his epic Moby-Dick, to contemporary novelists like Ali Smith and Valeria Luiselli, whose fictions play with opening lines and plot lines from classic literature, to historian Sadiya Hartman and poet Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, who make creative use of historical documents.

In this generative course, we will read and study the works of writers who incorporate found material, learn the basics of permissions and copyright to distinguish between plagiarism and fair use, and explore resources for accessing public domain books and archival material. Writing exercises throughout the course will push you to explore and hone your own voice and perspective, even as you "steal" from other writers. Students can choose to work in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or a combination of genres. While this is not a traditional workshop, students will have the opportunity during each session to share their own work.

At the end of the course, you will walk away with a detailed outline for researching and writing at least one new project, along with concrete next steps to help you move forward at your own pace. This course is perfect for anyone working through writer’s block, or looking to tell a heavily-researched story in a nontraditional way.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Generating new materials inspired by the words around you, yet still distinctly written in your own voice

- Learning to navigate copyright and permissions so you can add these creative citations to your toolkit and

- Walking away with an idea for a new project as well as next steps to carry you forward on your own.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


There will be weekly writing and reading assignments, but they will have a "choose your own adventure" flavor so that students can explore their own interests and projects, rather than box themselves in with strict page counts. Students will not be expected to share their work or receive feedback from peers or the instructor as they would in a traditional workshop, but students will have the opportunity during each session to share their own work for quick, informal feedback.


Week 1: What is “Stealing Like a Writer?”

Week 2: Source Material

Week 3: Distinguishing Your Voice

Week 4: Mini-Workshop (verbal feedback only)

Amelia Possanza

A full-time book publicist and part-time writer, Amelia Possanza currently lives in Brooklyn with her cat. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Electric Literature, The Millions, and NPR’s Invisibilia. Her first book, Lesbian Love Story, is due out from Catapult in June 2023.


"LESBIAN LOVE STORY has all the vivid detail of a great novel and all the intelligence of a great study. Amelia Possanza dives into archival records of many kinds to discover what lesbians have to teach us all about love. In doing so, she recounts the stories of seven remarkable women--athletes, performers, and poets among them--explores the complexity of record keeping, especially for the disenfranchised, and reveals her own loves and longings."

Stephen McCauley author of MY EX-LIFE