Sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, and horror have devoted followings—and for good reason. These genres offer readers clear expectations, promising wonder, adventure, suspense, passion, shivers, and more: all essential touchstones of the human experience.
This six-week course is intended for students with past experience workshopping fiction, but a background in genre writing isn’t necessary—just curiosity! Each week before we meet, we’ll read a short story or excerpt of a mind-bending novel to spark our imaginations (likely authors will include Kazuo Ishiguro, Kelly Link, Manuel Gonzales, Jeffrey Ford, Jonathan Lethem, and Carmen Maria Machado). I’ll highlight a successful strategy that the author employs. Then two students will workshop stories-in-progress that engage with genre traditions. We will discuss their fiction both on its own terms and in terms of what it adds to that ongoing conversation.
Genre emerges when writers discover, through trial and error, a set of conventions that reliably encode something we recognize about the world and ourselves. Yet only by continuing to manipulate and subvert these conventions can we transmit the new truths that make fiction urgent and revelatory—and in this course, we’ll learn how.
- Written peer and instructor feedback on two fiction submissions, as well as in-class discussions of each
- One-on-one private conference with the instructor
- Advice on both genre and literary publishing from an author with first-hand experience of both, who’s also worked in NYC book publishing
- Guidance on other next steps in one’s writing career, like MFA applications
- Genre-bending reading recommendations and strategic takeaways
*no class February 18th
Chandler Klang Smith’s new novel The Sky Is Yours (Hogarth/Crown, 2018) was listed by Entertainment Weekly as a "Best New Book." She is a graduate of the MFA creative writing program at Columbia University, and has worked as an editorial assistant at literary agencies, as a ghostwriter, and for the KGB Bar literary venue. She has served twice as a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards and participates annually as a guest at Readercon, a speculative fiction conference in Massachusetts. She teaches and tutors in New York City.
“Smith’s gifts of imagination are staggering. Her world-building is a tangled sprawl of past, present, and future, a wickedly satirical synthesis that underlines just how fractured our own realities can be during periods of fear, unrest, inequality, and instability…. In language that punches and caresses, [Smith] dwells on ugliness and beauty in equal measure… Much like Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS and Charlie Jane Anders’ ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY before it, THE SKY IS YOURS filters youth through a warped yet poignantly canny speculative-fiction lens. At the same time, it’s funny as hell, full of madcap detail, firecracker dialogue, and a healthy dose of absurdism in the face of darkness.”
“There have been a lot of books heralded as heirs to INFINITE JEST, but I can happily say: this is it. I’ve found it…. Chandler Klang Smith has unleashed her own slipstream, genrefluid monster of a book—that also happens to be fun, visceral, heartbreaking, and genuinely funny. THE SKY IS YOURS is bursting with ideas and characters, and I’d advise you to take a break after reading it, because other books are probably going to seem a bit black-and-white for a while…. THE SKY IS YOURS may be a rollicking adventure, but it also has a bracing, honest heart.”
“It’s a mesmeric world, comic in the way teenage voyages of self-discovery inevitably are, but with an undertone of menace, horror, even hints of allegory. Satire, too… Ms. Smith’s imagination is inexhaustible. THE SKY IS YOURS is a great and disturbing debut, which colonizes a new realm of the magic city.”
“Chandler Klang Smith comes roaring out the gate with a raucous, inventive gem of a debut. Science fiction, coming of age, and adventure novel, THE SKY IS YOURS blends its genres brilliantly. To top it all off the book is funny as hell.”
“Chandler is the kind of workshop instructor that I wish every student were lucky enough to have. She offers all her students the perfect balance of dynamics: encouragement without fanaticism, insight without assumption, and constructive critique without cutting. She welcomes students into her world with warmth and care. I cannot say enough wonderful things about her—take this workshop!”
“Chandler is a smart, generous, and open-minded teacher—and what she really does well as a workshop leader is model a respectful, agile readership that sees the full potential in each draft. Under her instruction, I found that our workshop group became a real community.”
“I have had the pleasure of workshopping with Chandler Klang Smith since 2014. In that time, I have found her analyses and critiques to be nothing less than sharp, perceptive, and insightful. I have no doubt the students who take her Catapult workshop will benefit greatly from the experience. I know I have!”