Online | Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Fiction Workshop: The Magic of the Young Narrator

How do you create young adult characters who hook even the most skeptical reader as they tackle the difficulties of life, love, and loss through fresh eyes? Whether you’re writing through the eyes of a teenager or an adult reflecting on her coming-of-age, this course will explore fictional characters who are in the throes of adolescence, trying to navigate their changing bodies, their parents’ relationships, their own botched attempts at love and friendship, and the mysteries and injustices of the world at large. Some of the stories, like Alice Munro’s “Child’s Play,” will be told retrospectively, with an adult narrator reflecting on her shameful past, while others will be told from the throes of youth, like the opening chapter of NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. What all of them will have in common is their ability to transcend their main character’s relatively limited experiences to say something profound and entertaining about the world.

Each week, we’ll focus on a new work of fiction with a young narrator and will analyze it based on structure, point of view, character, dialogue, and other fundamental aspects of fiction, while also keeping an eye on the limitations and endless possibilities that exist with a young character in the starring role. Readings will also include David Bezmozgis’ “Natasha,” Aleksandar Hemon’s “American Commando” and Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Once in a Lifetime.”

Though workshopping a story with a younger narrator isn’t mandatory for this workshop, some exploration of coming-of-age is highly encouraged. While previous workshop experience is a plus, all writers are welcome in the course.

This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.


- How to write believable dialogue (particularly between young people)

- How to create deep, entertaining, and fleshed-out characters, no matter what age

- How to structure a short story with strong forward momentum, whether it is told in the present or retrospectively

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


Week One: Welcome: excerpt from "Advanced Beginners" by Melissa Bank

Week Two: Character (cont): excerpt from "Advanced Beginners" by Melissa Bank

Week Three: Dialogue/Voice: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo & “We Love You Crispina” by Jenny Zhang

Week Four: Plot/Structure: “Child’s Play” by Alice Munro

Week Five: Point of View: Once in a Lifetime by Jhumpa Lahiri

Week Six: World Building: “St. Lucy’s Home” by Karen Russell

Maria Kuznetsova

Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine and moved to the United States as a child. She recently received an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and her work appears or is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Guernica, Indiana Review, The Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. 

Her debut novel, Oksana, Behave! , from Spiegel & Grau/Random House was a Barnes & Noble 2019 Discover pick. Excerpts from the novel appear in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Kenyon Review Online, among others. She lives in Iowa City with her husband and daughter. 


"Maria Kuznetsova writes like a dream!"

Gary Shteyngart writer

“Maria Kuznetsova writes with great nuance and deep honesty about American girlhood, and her Oksana will win your heart and make you sit up and pay attention. This is a complex, beautifully rendered debut.”

Pam Houston author of COWYBOYS ARE MY WEAKNESS

“A brilliant, funny and ultimately generous novel, ideally crowded with incidental and essential pleasures both. At once unsparing and gentle, unpredictable and reliably wise,OKSANA, BEHAVE! is as unsettlingly and profoundly companionable as family.”

Rivka Galchen author

"Maria Kuznetsova is the sharpest editor, teacher, and reader I know. She can find the soul of any story and help it shine through."

former student

"Maria is an engaging, energetic teacher who has helped me improve my writing and understanding of fiction tremendously."

former student