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 Binary Star before the first session.
Books will include:
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard (2015)
Problems by Jade Sharma (2016)
Boy Parts by Eliza Clark (2020)
The New Me by Halle Butler (2019)
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.
- 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: Binary Star by Sarah Gerard (2015) - Propulsive Erasure and Poetry
Week 2: Problems by Jade Sharma (2016) - Vulgarity, Addiction, and Frankness
Week 3: Boy Parts by Eliza Clark (2020) - Black Comedy of Female Brutality
Week 4: The New Me by Halle Butler (2019) - Snarky Late Capitalist Nightmare
"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."
"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."
"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."
“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.“