In the realm of fiction writing, sometimes imagery is seen as an afterthought, and description used in a utilitarian way to simply show what is in a room, or what a character looks like. But description can do so much more than that: evoke tone, for instance, and a sense of richness and mystery. And through imagery, we can bring a reader further, and more fully, into a text. From ekphrasis to portraiture and other ways of working with art in one's writing, to the possibilities in describing characters, objects, cities and landscapes, this six-week course will focus on experimenting with, and creating, vivid imagery in fiction.
In addition to occasionally looking at visual art, short films/videos, and interiors and exteriors, we will read and/or reference short stories and novel excerpts by writers such as Claire-Louise Bennett, Teju Cole, Lisa Robertson, Maria Gainza, Kate Zambreno, Kathryn Scanlan, Gerald Murnane, Danielle Dutton, and Tisa Bryant.
The workshop is best suited for those who have already learned the fundamentals of fiction and have some experience writing it, even if still a beginner. Previous workshop experience is not required.
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 feedback/notes from instructor and students on one workshop piece (short story, novel excerpt, or a small collection of flash fiction)
- Short weekly lectures and/or writing prompts on writing the visual via art, objects, and landscapes
- A thirty minute one-on-one session with the instructor about your work
- A deeper understanding of how to incorporate imagery into your fiction
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Each week, students should come to class prepared to discuss the assigned short story or novel excerpt, as well as the scheduled workshop submission/s, to which they will also provide feedback/notes. Each student will have the opportunity to workshop one short story (or several flash fiction pieces) or novel excerpt, from 5-15 double-spaced pages.
Week One: Tisa Bryant, "The Problem of Dido" + workshop one
Week Two: Claire-Louise Bennett, excerpt from POND + workshop two
Week Three: Teju Cole, excerpt from OPEN CITY + workshop three
Week Four: Kathryn Scanlan, "Playhouse" + workshop four
Week Five: Kate Zambreno, excerpt from DRIFTS + workshop five
Week Six: Gerald Murnane, excerpt from THE PLAINS + workshop six
Amina Cain is the author of the novel Indelicacy, a New York Times Editors' Choice, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in February 2020, and two collections of short stories: Creature (Dorothy, a publishing project) and I Go To Some Hollow (Les Figues Press). Her writing has appeared in Granta, BOMB, The Paris Review Daily, n + 1, and other places. She lives in Los Angeles.
“In INDELICACY we meet a woman who spends time studying landscape paintings and then walking inside the landscapes where she lives. She looks at a landscape then moves inside another, and as we read it begins to seem that the landscapes in paintings and in fiction are eerily the same. In a deeply pleasing way, reading this novel is a bit like standing in a painting, a masterful study of light and dark, inside and out, freedom and desire. Amina Cain is one of my favorite writers. I loved reading this book.”
“Acutely observed, Indelicacy is an exquisite jewel box of a novel with the passion and vitality found only in rare and necessary works such as "The Hour of the Star" and "The Days of Abandonment." Through this timeless examination of solitude, art, and friendship Amina Cain announces herself as one of the most intriguing contemporary writers of our time.”
“Amina Cain is a beautiful writer. Like the girl in the rear view mirror in your backseat, quiet, looking out the window half smiling, then not, then glancing at you, curious to her. That is how her thoughts and words make me feel, like clouds hanging with jets, and knowing love is pure.”
"Happy endings have to be earned (in italics). You, professor, wrote those words in your critique of my short story draft. The sentence stunned me, painful like cold toes in hot water, or stretching well used muscles. A good (in italics) pain."
"Her love of the material is clear and she treats her students as fellow artists, giving them respect and guidance."
"She creates an environment of inquiry where students are encouraged to read widely to improve their craft and enter the broader literary conversation."