Online | Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Fiction Workshop: The Earned Surprise

"I cannot speak highly enough of Zulema—she made the experience wonderful. She was incredibly thoughtful, organized, and generous with her time and feedback. My classmates were incredible as well. Even meeting online, it really felt like we had built a little writing community." - Maya Afilalo, former student

How do they do it, the masters? How do they write the kind of stories that have us up out of our chairs, shaking our heads in disbelief? In this workshop, we’ll take a close-up view of the “earned surprise”—unexpected narrative turns, descriptions that leap off the page, dialogue that is natural to its world and yet entirely unforeseen. We’ll do close readings of pieces by ZZ Packer, Lorrie Moore, Samantha Hunt, and other masters of the short story form, expanding and developing our understanding of creative “hot spots.” In our intensive workshop, we will work together on your in-progress stories to identify places where you might leap as a master would leap, where you might dig in deeper to see what possibilities your stories hold.

This course is ideal for those who have a story or two underway and find themselves stalled, as well as those looking to strengthen and refine their revision skills. During this six-week intensive workshop, each student will workshop twice. Students will also meet with the instructor for individual conferences.

You will complete this workshop with two revised short stories, a deepened ability to approach the form, and a reinvigorated sense of revision—that it doesn’t have to be painful, and in fact can be quite fun.

This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class.


-Thoughtful, intensive peer and instructor critiques on two fiction submissions

- For each of your submissions, 5-6 creative prompts that will be unique to you and your work, generated by your instructor and your peers

- A deeper understanding of how to identify creative “hot spots” in stories, and how to apply this knowledge to your own work

- An examination of basic and essential elements of craft

- A private phone conference with your instructor to discuss your writing concerns and goals

- Detailed information about how to prepare and submit your work to the right publications

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


Week Zero: Introductions

Week One: The Reading & Writing Life

Week Two: Plot

Week Three: Dialogue

Week Four: Description

Week Five: Revision

Week Six: What's Next - Submitting Your Work

Zoela Renee Summerfield

Zoela Renee Summerfield is the author of the novel Every Other Weekend. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Guernica and The Threepenny Review. Her first book, Everything Faces All Ways At Once, is available from Fourteen Hills Press. A MacDowell Colony fellow, she currently lives in Portland, Oregon.


“Summerfield's eye is sure, her writing hilarious and scathing and healing. It is a gift to find ourselves here, and find ourselves, perhaps, inhabitable. With EVERY OTHER WEEKEND, Summerfield brings us home to ourselves.”

Tupelo Hassman author of GIRLCHILD

“Zulema Summerfield is among the best new writers I've read in a long, long time. She tells the truth, but with a beautiful slant, and any reader who comes in contact with her will be better for her singular vision.”

Profile Photo Peter Orner author of AM I ALONE HERE?

“Zulema LISTENS, without judgement, and asks probing questions that pry open the trap doors of your mind. Once she helps you hear yourself name your stumbling blocks and fears, she provides clear, practical, and infinitely wise solutions. You will leave your session with a personalized list of creative assignments, excited and ready to engage in your creative practice with playfulness and JOY.”

Profile Photo Nadja Spiegelman author of I'LL TELL YOU IN PERSON

“Working with Zulema gave me a mental stimulus I didn’t know I needed. She has a knack for seeing things clearly and from different points of view, and I left feeling not only enlightened, but invigorated from her insight. I only wish she was always around me for whenever I hit a bump in the road.”

Charles Poekel writer/director of CHRISTMAS AGAIN

“Zulema Summerfield has the rare ability to see a story not just for what it is, but what it wants to be. She is guided in her feedback by the work itself, not by any rigid aesthetic, and her considerable knowledge of narrative and all-things literature allows her to give specific, constructive criticism that will help you articulate and achieve your vision. If you work with Zulema, count on being inspired, encouraged, and pushed to do your best work. She has a sharp eye and a huge heart, and what more could you want from a coach, a teacher, a comrade?”

Dustin Heron author of PARADISE STORIES