Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Nonfiction Workshop: Transforming Your Creative Practice

This nonfiction course aims to help us all think and write anew—and to welcome the enlargement, refinement, and transformation of our creative practices. Writing is hard, so let's work together on developing practice! How can our writing benefit from breaking open assumptions about and narrow assessments of our voices, languages, crafts, and writing identities? We will read, study, and respond to the work of classmates and of published writers in order to explore style, perspective, genre, voice—and actual living practice. Writing demands mercy toward ourselves, toward our writing practices, and toward our fellow writers and readers; writing allows us to take risks with craft, inspiration, and our limitless capacity to grow, together.

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote of the "web" of imaginative practice in Shakespeare's day (and her own!): "What were the conditions in which women lived? ....[w]hen the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in."

This course is a writing workshop for all students (from beginners to professionals) who are ready to share a nonfiction piece (essay, creative nonfiction, hybrid work, researched work) to share with the class. We will also analyze and learn from the craft elements of a stylistically wide-ranging selection of published works. Workshop is a dynamic, improvisational, and planned experience that not only teaches us how to receive and give feedback, but also to cultivate our own inner editors and fans. This course is writing intensive (drafts of pieces, exercises, workshop response, and critical response), but low-stakes: the goal is to write more dynamically and flexibly, without pressuring ourselves, ever, to be perfect!

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- An introduction to workshop practice for beginners--and a refresher and chance to rethink practice, for those students with prior workshop experience

- Practice in offering supportive critical feedback to peer work, which helps us to read better and to cultivate the inner editors we require for our own revisions

- Practice in receiving supportive critical feedback on our work, which helps us to improve our own ideas beyond our original expectations

- Focused analysis of published writing across a range of styles and subjects, to broaden our understanding of craft elements

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

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

- Students will write short exercises to help generate ideas and design projects

- Students have one or two opportunities to submit work and receive feedback from peers and instructor

- Students will write constructive feedback for peer work every week, plus craft analysis of two short published readings every week

- Students can bring their pressing writer’s block, writing, and publishing questions to class

Alison Kinney

Alison Kinney is the author of a book of cultural history, HOOD (Bloomsbury Publishing, Object Lessons Series, 2016). She is a regular correspondent at The Paris Review Daily; her writing has also appeared online or in print at The New Yorker.com, Harper’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Guardian, The New York Times, Longreads, Hyperallergic, VAN Magazine, The Atlantic, L.A. Review of Books, New Republic, History Today, LitHub, and other publications. She received an MFA in creative writing from The New School.

Testimonials

“Ms. Kinney's combination of expertise, comprehensiveness, and kindness makes her a fantastic writing teacher. Her critiques of student manuscripts would always get right to the core of what was necessary to elevate and improve a piece of writing. She did so in a manner that was comprehensive, always suggesting two or three different directions a student might want to take their manuscript in. Her critiques, even when cautioning writers about problematic aspects of their manuscript, were strictly constructive and allowed an atmosphere where students felt safe to unrestrainedly share their work. In addition to our manuscripts Ms. Kinney would provide extensive notes and suggestions on our two weekly exercises. This enormous amount of practicable feedback allowed me to improve and grow as a writer during the duration of this class and I cannot recommend Ms. Kinney highly enough as a professor of writing.”

former student

“In spry and intelligent prose, Alison Kinney tours the many uses of the hood in human culture, exploring seemingly unconnected byways and guiding the reader through some surprising connections. The ubiquitous hood, she shows, is an artifact of human relationships with power, the state, and one another. By the end of my time with HOOD, I had laughed out loud, sighed in exasperation, and felt by turns both furious and proud.”

Rebecca Onion author of INNOCENT EXPERIMENTS: CHILDHOOD AND THE CULTURE OF PUBLIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES

“Provocative and highly informative, Alison Kinney’s HOOD considers this seemingly neutral garment accessory and reveals it to be vexed by a long history of violence, from the Grim Reaper to the KKK and beyond—a history we would do well to address, and redress. Readers will never see hoods the same way again.”

Sister Helen Prejean author of DEAD MAN WALKING

“Alison Kinney is remarkable at pulling out your imagination. She gives you insights and advice that make you look at your own work in a new light. Her passion and eagerness to teach comes out in her lessons and it was never a dull moment with her. Her enlightenment about our various readings always kept me engaged and wanting to know more. It was my first time diving into the world of non-fiction, and I'm glad it was with Alison because she motivated me to keep writing even when I thought I couldn't.”

former student

“Alison Kinney is a world-class writer and inspiring, intuitive educator. She really curates the learning experience for students through superb sample texts from a truly diverse set of writers and her own remarkably insightful editorial eye. She takes classes through the entire writing process, from concept to research, editing, and publishing.”

Michele Thomas writer and editor