Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Fiction Workshop: Writing with Voice

"Sam's a fabulous instructor. He took everyone's writing seriously and made it clear that he was treating the seminar as he would one that occurred as part of the Columbia MFA program. Top-shelf teacher and I can't recommend him more highly." - Alex Gruhin, former Catapult student

More and more, publishers are looking for fiction featuring a strong and original voice. But does everyone have a “voice” and is there even such a thing as “finding” it? The short answers are: yes and yes.

In this course, we’ll explore the fundamentals of fiction writing: How to establish multidimensional characters who come to life on the page; how to build a vibrant, detail-rich world for your characters to move through; and how to concoct a tight and coherent plot that grips, moves, and surprises a reader. Along the way, we’ll discuss how to do all of this with style — in other words, with voice.

Ultimately, finding your fictional voice is about experimentation — the willingness to test out different strategies, and the courage to occasionally flop — as you learn where your energies lie as a writer. Maybe your best writing voice sounds exactly like your speaking voice, or maybe it’s the polar opposite. Maybe you’re someone who aims to a be “serious” writer, but whose work comes alive when you’re writing in a zanier, comical register (as often happens for me). Or maybe you think of yourself as a “funny” writer, but your most powerful prose materializes when you allow yourself to turn down the irony and dial up the sincerity.

Whatever the case, this workshop will equip you with the fundamentals of fiction writing, and put you on the path to finding a voice that showcases your specific strengths as a storyteller.

*no class on September 23rd or October 14th


- Learning the fundamentals of fiction: world-building, character development, and plot structure

- Each student will workshop two stories (or novel samples) during the course, and receive written feedback from me and fellow students

- Read and analyzing great examples of voice-driven literature, from Ralph Ellison to Flannery O’Connor to George Saunders

- More confidence as a writer, on and off the page!

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

Sam Graham-Felsen

Sam Graham-Felsen was born and raised in Boston. He was the chief blogger on Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and his nonfiction writing has appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, New York, the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and Buzzfeed. Green is his first novel.


"Sam’s course at Columbia was one of the best that I took in my four years at the school. The students in my class had a wide variety of backgrounds, genre preferences, and writing experience, but there wasn’t a single person whose writing didn’t seem to improve as the workshop went on. When Sam provides feedback, he is honest, clear, and supportive. He easily handles the complicated balance between encouraging students’ potential and providing constructive criticism. He is also very down-to-earth, friendly, and humble. He is an excellent writer himself, but recognizes that there are many, many ways in which to write well, and he does not push his own preferences onto his students. Sam will help you become a better version of the writer you are, not a worse version of the writer he is. Sam also created a syllabus that reflected the diversity of the students reading it, both in terms of genre/writing style and racial/gender diversity. I enjoyed Sam’s class immensely, and, if I were still based in NYC, would sign up to take his class tomorrow. "

Elizabeth Strassner former student at Columbia University

"As a creative writing major at Columbia University, I have had opportunities to take courses with many interesting and engaging professors, and Sam Graham-Felsen was absolutely one of my favorites. He is an incredibly talented instructor, who always came to class well-prepared with interesting course material and insightful quotes about writing to share with his students. In my experiences in workshop with Sam, I saw him engage thoroughly and completely with fifteen entirely different styles of writing. He understood the need to separate his personal writing biases from his workshop suggestions, and was always prepared with a wealth of comments that, when put to good use, led me to significant improvement in my own work. As a writer, Sam also displays creative genius. His novel, Green, is filled with artful dialogue and clever insights into racism, against the backdrop of a witty story about adolescence in all its glorious awkwardness. He shows an intelligent grasp of human nature in all its many quirks, and manages to create believable, likeable characters who face thought-provoking conflicts on every page."

Michelle Goff former student at Columbia University

“Astounding . . . I’ve rarely seen an author nail a time and a place with such gorgeous accuracy and heartbreaking hilarity. The strength of Sam Graham-Felsen’s voice can lift up entire worlds.”

Gary Shteyngart author of SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY

“A fierce and brilliant book, comic, poignant, perfectly observed, and blazing with all the urgent fears and longings of adolescence.”

Helen Macdonald author of H IS FOR HAWK

“Sam Graham-Felsen has pioneered a new genre: free-stylin’ social realism. If Balzac were a hip-hop artist, he might have produced a novel like GREEN.”

Heidi Julavits author of THE FOLDED CLOCK

“Though it raises serious questions about race and inequality with a poignancy that took me aback, GREEN is also funny and beautifully written, with not a word out of place, and somehow managing to be both true to its young narrator’s voice and bracingly intelligent in its depiction of a brutal societal impasse. I enjoyed this more than anything else I’ve read in ages.”

Adelle Waldman author of THE LOVE AFFAIR OF NATHANIEL P.