Online | Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Fiction Workshop: Writing about Class

For a long time, much of European and American literature was preoccupied with class. Gaskell, Dickens, Hardy, Flaubert—the tensions in 19th century novels were almost always class tensions. Characters like Emma Bovary, or Pip in Great Expectations, strived to transcend their places in the class system, and were forced to confront the social forces and constraints that shaped their destinies.

In the 20th century, however, and especially since the 1970s, the prominence of class has waned. And yet, it remains, stubbornly, as an organizing principle in our lives. If anything, the pandemic has reminded us that we depend on a class of “essential workers,” and that their stories and struggles are largely invisible.

In this course, we’ll investigate how to write fiction that engages with class and its important political implications. We’ll do this by asking open questions and working toward answers together. How do material conditions affect characterization and either limit or expand the horizons of plot and structure? How does class conflict create tension and suspense in our stories? How can we write effectively about work, especially menial work? How can we write about economic and political issues without it seeming didactic?

We’ll look at modern writers who take class seriously and who write about working class life – writers like Lucia Berlin, Arundhati Roy, and Sally Rooney. We’ll treat class as a lens, through which the other elements of craft—character, setting, POV, and plot—are inflected.

Each student will be workshopped twice, complete a weekly craft assignment, and provide written feedback to their peers. I'll also meet with each student for a brief one-on-one conversation about their work. This course is open to all writers, with any level of experience, though it will be ideal for writers who have taken a workshop before.

At the end of the six weeks, students will leave with a toolbox of craft knowledge and a greater understanding of how class operates in literature and in their own work.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.

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

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Understand the craft elements that make up all fiction, especially as they relate to class

- Receive instructor and peer feedback on two pieces of fiction

- Explore the process of writing—gathering material, taking notes, cultivating attention

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

- Workshop submissions will be limited to 12 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font.

- Students will be expected to write feedback letters (at least 300 words) on their peers' workshop submissions each week.

- Each week, we'll discuss a published story or excerpt. Students are expected to complete the readings and come to class ready for a nuanced conversation.

- Short craft assignments will also be completed on a weekly basis.

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1 - Introduction, discussion of class (no workshop)

Week 2 - Point-of-View; workshop

Week 3 - Description and Imagery; workshop

Week 4 - Character; workshop

Week 5 - Setting; workshop

Week 6 - Plot and Structure; workshop

Lee Cole

Lee Cole was born and grew up in rural Kentucky. He's a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was awarded a 2020 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellowship. His debut novel, Groundskeeping, is forthcoming with Knopf in spring of 2022.

Testimonials

“It’s one thing for a writer to have great eye and another for him to know what it’s for. Lee Cole’s constantly roving eye is sharp and unerring and it misses exactly nothing. In his debut novel, GROUNDSKEEPING, he witnesses with great sympathy the painful passage between youth and adulthood that leaves us all the worse for wear.”

Richard Russo

“GROUNDSKEEPING is a smart, funny, exhilarating debut about that time in life when you are clawing your way to a future that feels murky and impossible to reach. Lee Cole takes a hard look at our fraught cultural moment, our divides large and small, with fresh insight and wisdom and tenderness. I truly loved it.”

Lily King

“Scrupulously perceptive . . . GROUNDSKEEPING is filled with close observation, detailed shading. It is an absorbing love story, but it is also an examination of class in America, and it captures with sharp insight a moment in recent history.”

Colm Tóibín

“An extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations–this is a fierce, tender, and wholly unforgettable work from a hugely gifted writer.”

Ann Patchett

“A coming-of-age story inextricably bound with a love story, GROUNDSKEEPING gets at the hard work of finding your place in the world, the burden and exhilaration of fighting for who you might be . . . It’s frankly preposterous this is a debut novel when Lee Cole’s writing has such ease and authority and his storytelling rings so true.”

Maggie Shipstead