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4 Weeks of Reading Sapphic Fiction as Writers

Until relatively recently, lesbian literature centered around a few small presses and fringe communities. While today it's more visible and dare I say trendy, it emerged as a defiant and elusive genre on the outskirts of mainstream literary fiction. As lesbian scholar Camille Paglia wrote for Salon in 1998, “as a disciple of Oscar Wilde, I positively glory in homosexuality's oppositional character.”

One of the most useful exercises in learning to write a novel is to think critically about other successful novels. In this seven-week, four-session class, we'll read and analyze four Sapphic novels that grapple with queer themes, from invisibility to camp. We'll use the same 12 questions to determine how and why these novels work. In doing so, we'll glean useful insights for our own novels. Protagonists must have a gift and a flaw, and they must want something tangible and need something psychic. On top of that, a novel's climax must be well-timed, dramatic, and thematic in order to keep readers engaged and invested. We’ll also look at how these books make a political case for themselves within the canon of queer literature.

The texts for this class will be:

Week 1: Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1952)

Week 2: Laurie Weeks, Zipper Mouth (2011)

Week 3: Susan Choi, My Education (2013)

Week 4: Kristen Arnett, With Teeth (2021)

Class meetings will involve an instructor-led guided discussion about that week’s novel, using the 12-questions for structure. Students should come to class having read the book up for discussion and answered the modified 12 questions to be provided before class. 

Note: Any ‘Reading...as Writers’ student can opt in to a 45-minute consultation with the instructor for an additional fee of $105, in which you receive one-on-one feedback on any writing that emerged from the course, including ideas for revision and specific line edits. Please email [email protected] after your final group meeting to arrange a consultation.

This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class. 

A note from Anna on the format: I've noticed in my recent Catapult classes that many students have Zoom fatigue and are more comfortable communicating in the text-chat portion of Zoom than speaking. The text format is generally less stressful and better for students who are shy about their work. I've therefore decided that a text-based platform is ideal. Beyond this, the text-based course makes a record of what's said in class that students can access after the class.

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

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Greater familiarity with contemporary Sapphic novels.

- Thoughtful analysis of successful novels designed to strengthen our own writing.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

Participants must have access to the four assigned books, either as physical copies or e-books.

The students will read a novel every two weeks and answer 12 questions about the book in preparation for class discussion. Students are free to read all of the books before class starts to get a head start, but are expected to have read The Price of Salt for the first class.

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1: Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1952)

Week 2: Laurie Weeks, Zipper Mouth (2011)

Week 3: Susan Choi, My Education (2013)

Week 4: Kristen Arnett, With Teeth (2021)

Anna Dorn

Anna Dorn is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her forthcoming novel, Exalted, will be published in June 2022 by Unnamed Press. She's also written Vagablonde (Unnamed Press) and Bad Lawyer (Hachette Books). She received her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University.

Testimonials

"A fantastic novel that feels contemporary in all the right ways. In the world of VAGABLONDE, fame is more important than mental health, good lighting is more important than food, and ‘thriving’ is more important than any mundane obligation. Anna Dorn’s sentences are sharp and addictive, absorbing me completely into this world of music, friendship, and self-interrogation."

Chelsea Hodson author of TONIGHT I'M SOMEONE ELSE

"Dorn’s narrative is intoxicating, particularly in its depiction of the existential ennui that’s stemmed from our insatiable consumer culture... Dorn may have written the horror novel we deserve."

Kirkus Reviews

"Anna Dorn writes vivid, striking prose that reinterprets pop culture, the particularities of Southern California, and the complex technology of our human brains. An original, hilarious, and spot on debut."

Dana Spiotta author of STONE ARABIA

“As a reader, Anna Dorn has a knack for understanding what a writer is trying to accomplish with a piece and her notes help direct a writer to make a piece what they want it to be. Her enthusiasm for producing new, strong work inspires me as a writer to keep moving forward in my own career.“

Catie Disabato writing group member