Tools for Creating Reverberation and Meaning in Short Fiction
We often hear the best stories contain more than the sum of their parts. Or that an ending’s “loose ends” are nicely “tied up.” But what exactly does this mean? How do we create meaningful reverberation and echo in our work? How do we notice all the subtle ways these can be deployed? As writers—where do we even start?
In this six-week workshop, we’ll explore through some generative in-class exercises, read and discuss stories rich with thematic echo by several of today’s best writers and read and critique each other’s work (one to two full-length stories each, or an equivalent standalone piece from a larger work, 8-20 double-spaced pages) to the end of starting to answer these questions for ourselves. As much as we’ll discuss point of view and character, we’ll consider the tools to begin sketching out stories that feel true, and powerfully resonate.
By the end of the course, you will have a better understanding, through our workshop discussions and lectures, of many elements of craft (point of view, structure, narrative arc, etc.) and a full story draft with notes from your instructor and peers. Each writer will also meet one-on-one with the instructor outside of class to discuss their work in detail. In our final meeting, we will also discuss strategies, best practices, and resources for submission to journals. This course is suitable for writers of all skill levels, with and without formal creative writing workshop experience.
*no class November 28th or December 26th
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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Detailed peer and instructor feedback on one to two full-length stories each, or an equivalent standalone piece from a larger work, 8-20 double-spaced pages
- One-on-one instructor conference to provide specific feedback on work and advice for goals
- Strategies for revision and submission
- Developed confidence as a writer, editor, and reader
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will be expected to closely read two to three peer stories or excerpts per week, and provide thoughtful written responses to each (one page), read one to two assigned stories per week, and meaningfully participate in workshops and discussions of assigned material.
Week One: The makings of a story, (un)learning assumption and terminology
Week Two: Pluralizing narrative arc/Workshop
Week Three: Identifying, imagining, and exploiting image systems/Workshop
Week Four: Doubling, opposition, and attention/Workshop
Week Five: Workshop
Week Six: Demystifying submission and publication/Workshop
Peter Kispert is the author of I Know You Know Who I Am: Stories (Penguin Books, February 2020). He holds an MFA from Indiana University, where he served as editor-in-chief of Indiana Review, and is currently an assistant editor at HarperCollins Publishers and American Short Fiction. His fiction and nonfiction has been published in GQ, Esquire, Playboy, Slice, them, The Journal, and The Carolina Quarterly. He lives in New York.
“Peter Kispert’s dazzling collection is a reminder that the fiction tells lies in order to discover truth. Here is a confident, psychologically astute new writer with a bold new vision.”
“This debut collection has a wisdom and a tapestry of language far beyond the author’s years. Loosely linked unreliable narrators remind us that we might find religion in the most unlikely places — such as the space between a truth and a lie. Kispert is unequivocally a writer to watch.”
“Engrossing, unsettling, full of characters in search of their place in the world, I KNOW YOU KNOW WHO I AM reminds me in the best possible way of the debut collections of Mary Gaitskill and Adam Haslett, in tone and talent and the promise of what will come next.”
“Sometimes you read a collection and you wonder how a mere mortal wrote it because the language is so pure, the depth of emotion so profound—Peter Kispert is a wizard, creating a collection of liars and lies that will ring true in the heart of any reader. A tour de force: read this book.”
“Peter is a skilled, thoughtful, and passionate creative writing teacher. In my eyes, his greatest strength was that it was immediately clear that he cared immensely about our own growth as writers and about the craft of writing itself. His enthusiasm was nothing short of contagious, and carried from the first class to the last.”
“Peter's feedback was always thoughtful and specific, and he encouraged lively discussion in every session. A great experience!”
"Riveting… Every lie reveals itself so exquisitely that the parallels become an added pleasure, as soon as we uncover the ways they diverge."
“This book is a beautiful Russian Nesting Doll: to try, to know, to understand. In these pages, intimacy is often a weapon, a drug, and a salve. Astonishingly tense and terrifically crafted, Kispert’s collection is not only a work of art, it’s a work of true tenderness.”
“Throughout the workshop Peter challenged us not to contemplate what made a piece of fiction good or bad, but to examine and question what made it resonate with each of us. He deepened our understanding of the writing and reading process and allowed each individual writer to exhibit and showcase their best selves. He personally challenged me to begin to identify and articulate what I care most about in the world and I what I need to say.”
“Peter was a great instructor. Each two hour class sessions was structured perfectly and alongside the chance to have our writing workshopped, Peter also introduced writing exercises and curated short story discussions around the topic of narrative voice. I found this workshop invaluable for helping me break through blocks in relation to character development and voice. Peter always gave sensitive, constructive feedback and created an encouraging space for everyone to share their work.”
“Peter was an incredible instructor. I couldn't have asked for a better first Catapult workshop experience. His passion for writing and teaching was apparent by the energy he brought to each class. After getting to know all of us in the workshop, he was really great about tweaking the planned course structure to address our specific needs, questions, and areas of desired improvement. I would highly recommend taking a workshop with Peter to anyone considering!”