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 Jenny Zhang's "We Love You Crispina" 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.
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 desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- 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: "Powder" by Tobias Wolff
Week Two: Character: "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 was born in Kiev, Ukraine and moved to the United States as a child. Her debut novel, OKSANA, BEHAVE! was published by Spiegel & Grau/Random House in 2019. Her fiction and non-fiction appears in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Southern Review, Guernica, The Threepenny Review, Crazyhorse, Slate Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Auburn, Alabama and teaches for Auburn University, where she will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the fall. She is also a fiction editor at The Bare Life Review, a journal of immigrant and refugee literature. Her second novel, SOMETHING UNBELIEVABLE, will be published by Random House in April 2021.
"Maria is an engaging, energetic teacher who has helped me improve my writing and understanding of fiction tremendously."
"Maria Kuznetsova is the sharpest editor, teacher, and reader I know. She can find the soul of any story and help it shine through."
“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.”
“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.”
"Maria Kuznetsova writes like a dream!"