Have you ever read something and thought, “Wow, you’re allowed to do that?!” Is there a story or idea that you’d like to explore but feel constrained by notions of “good writing?” Are you working on a story and looking for ways to make it more colorful, energetic, or authentic?
In this class, we will channel our own literary boldness. We’ll build our confidence by exploring innovative short stories, experimenting with exercises, and examining the censorious voices in our heads. Each week, we'll take on a different theme (family, identity, adolescence, body, and city) and create space to try out new ways of using language. In the first half of the class, we will read and discuss risk-taking work and use it to guide us into generative exercises. In the second half of class, we will workshop our writing, striving to observe the “moves'' that writers are making first, before attaching a positive or negative evaluation to these decisions. We will also map out the stages of the writing process, from “shitty first draft” to structured draft to polished draft. This class is ideal for beginner and intermediate writers who are looking to “unblock” their creative process.
Note that we will be sharing but not workshopping our generative exercises. If you’d like to take an exercise and expand it into a draft, feel free to do so. Otherwise, please have a draft of a short story, novel excerpt, or hybrid form ready to share with us. Also, an IRL notebook and writing implement is always helpful.
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.
- Develop confidence in risk-taking
- Complete generative exercises to help unblock your writing
- Workshop at least one long story and share a variety of exercises
- Participate in a supportive, collaborative classroom setting
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Closely read at least one short story and peers' writing each week.
- Complete some exercises outside of class.
- Submit 5-12 double-spaced pages of a short story, novel excerpt, or hybrid form to workshop.
Week 1: Welcome and "Family" -- Intros, “Shtty First Drafts,” "Sour Heart," and family exercises
Week 2 "Identity"-- Discuss stories from "How Long 'Til Black History Month," in-class workshop, exercise to do at home
Week 3 "Adolescence"-- Discuss story from "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves," moving from “Shtty” to structured drafts, in-class workshop, in-class exercise
Week 4 "Body" -- Discuss story from "Her Body and Other Parties," in-class workshop, discussion around self-doubt
Week 5 "City" -- Discuss excerpt from "Ravicka," in-class workshop, in-class exercise
Week 6 Keeping the Boldness Going -- In-class workshop, letter to self, discussion and tips for navigating polished drafts, submission, and potential rejection
Joss Lake is a trans writer and educator based in New York whose work has been supported by Queens Council of the Arts, Women and Performance Studies Collective, the Watermill Center, and Columbia University. He runs a literary sauna series called Trans at Rest and has been a senior editor at Conjunctions. His debut novel, Future Feeling, is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press.
"Words cannot explain how thankful I am to have Joss as one of my first professors! He is VERY sweet, caring, organized, and understanding. He is a great teacher. If I could, I would take his class again, without a doubt."
Weird and wondrous, Lake's eye-popping debut recalls the transgressive gender- and genre-bending of Jeanette Winterson and Samuel R. Delaney but fashions something entirely original."
“Smartly set in a strange, yet familiar American offscape, Lake's novel weaves a tantric tale that measures the timelessness of trans identities not in well-intentioned DSM diagnoses, civil rights movements, or social media pedantries, but by cherishing the fissures in the rock wall of intersectionality. For as Feeling Future proves, it’s in these misalignments, misunderstandings, and inappropriate joking where we have space to be ourselves."
"The uneasy future conjured by Joss Lake is really a naked readout on our crumbling present moment. Like every ambitious literary visionary, Lake uses his delirious imagination and potent narrative gifts to sharpen the mirror on how we live and feel now."