Fiction is a sanctuary for the otherwise near-extinct belief in the spectral: ghosts, haunted houses, and visions of the afterlife resiliently abound. Though writing the dead and of death run directly against the age-old adage, “write what you know,” some of the most memorable characters, scenes, and settings in literature are apparitional. Moreover, the ghost and the ghostly often serve as literary devices for conjuring the haunted historical past.
In this six-week class, students will write a ghost story (either a chapter of a longer piece or a complete short story). There will be weekly exercises assigned toward this goal, focused on the construction of the spectral character, a haunted sense of space and time, and the supernatural in plot. Additionally, we will be reading from Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, and others for inspiration of how authors have written ghosts across genre. This course is best suited for writers with previous workshop experience.
- Students will learn to build suspense and hauntedness in a story as well as cultivate a sense of beauty in the spectral.
- Feedback from the instructor and classmates on at least one workshop submission
- One one-on-one meeting with the instructor to discuss your writing
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Exercises will be assigned each week and one full short story/ chapter (10-25 double-spaced pages) should be completed by the end of the course. Portions of this story will be workshopped throughout the course. Students should be prepared complete readings outside of class each week (roughly one book per week). Students should have access to each assigned book.
Hannah Lillith Assadi was raised in Arizona and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in fiction from the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her first novel Sonora (Soho 2017) received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. In 2018, she was named a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree. Her second novel The Stars Are Not Yet Bells is forthcoming from Riverhead.
"Hannah Lillith Assadi's SONORA is everything a first novel should be--deliriously wrought, emotionally extreme, singular of markings, wild of heart, and following its unhewn path with proud instinct. This story of the doomed and dangerous friendship between two young girls becomes its own fresh myth, and the nightmarishly realized landscapes of the American desert and that city of cities, New York, are reconciled into a haunting whole."
"Hannah is a very nurturing and supportive instructor. I feel very lucky that my first experience with something like this was with her. She is generous with her time and did a really good job of facilitating discussion. Even though the workshop has ended, I feel incredibly motivated to carry on."
"I think Hannah is an amazing teacher! She was very skilled at managing the class discussions. She found the most important details in each student's story, and had us focus on those details. She also encouraged people to voice their opinions. Without her, I would never have understood how to workshop. She was also extremely positive and energetic."
“This debut powerfully evokes the sense of being an outsider.”
“Sonora is the most eerie and unusual coming of age story I've ever encountered—not a tale of innocence lost, but of innocence never had. In a story steeped in sorcery and curses, Assadi looks to the heavens, wild-eyed and bewildered.”
"Hannah Assadi has a distinctive gift for conveying both her passionate enthusiasm for writing and her extensive knowledge of literary craft in a manner that is as enjoyable as it is informative. Most important, she is the writing teacher who helps you get the job done, the teacher you will be thanking someday in the acknowledgements of your published novel."
“With penetrating grace, Hannah Lillith Assadi details the intoxicating precarity of being young and alive and desperate to change. Sonora is unforgettable and deeply felt, the type of book that brings you close, infiltrates you, and leaves you with the sense that you've just lived an entire life.”
"Hannah Lillith Assadi's editing insights are as thoughtful and intriguing as her own prose. The expert suggestions that Ms. Assadi provides have brought my fiction writing to the next level. She is the person I trust most with the projects that I hold dearest to my heart."