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4 Weeks of Reading the Millennial Novel as Writers

In asking “what makes a millennial novel,” writer Olivia Sudjic said: “darkly funny, desperate, and full of rage.”

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 contemporary novels that grapple with different contemporary themes—from self-doubt to economic instability. We'll use a modified version of Francesca Lia Block's 12 Questions to determine how and why these novels work. The goal is to 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.

Class meetings will involve an instructor-led guided discussion about that week’s novel, using the modified 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. Students may opt to pay an additional fee at the end of the class for instructor feedback on their work.

Participants are expected to have read Conversations with Friends before the first session.

Books will include:

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patrick Cottrell (2017)

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (2018)

Luster by Raven Leilani (2020)

Note: Any ‘ 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.

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.

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


- Greater familiarity with contemporary millennial novels.

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

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


The students will read a book a week and answer 12 questions about the book in preparation for class. That said, students are free to read books before class starts to get a head start, and I assume students may have read several of these books beforehand.


Week 1: Read & analyze Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (Marxism and vulnerability)

Week 2: Read & analyze Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patrick Cottrell (delusion and tragicomedy)

Week 3: Read & analyze My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (rage and desperation)

Week 4: Read & analyze Luster by Raven Leilani (exclusion and belonging)

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.


"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