Online | Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Fiction Workshop: Writing the Surreal & the Strange

What do we mean when we say that a short story is strange? How do you create an off-kilter world that still feels tethered to our own? Language is already embedded with the surreal and the uncanny; how do we tap into the power of the weird to shine a light on the human, the emotional, the mundane?

In this six-week workshop, students will become comfortable writing fiction that mines the otherworldly, the fabulist, and the fantastic. We will workshop your writing in class, engage in exercises and prompts to help us access the strange, and read short stories by masters of the form, including Judy Budnitz, Carmen Maria Machado, Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Helen Oyeyemi, Kelly Link, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Alice Sola Kim.

This workshop is open to writers with all levels of experience, from beginners to workshop veterans, who are working on short stories or a novel. If you work primarily in a realist space, you might take this class to find the ways in which fabulist techniques, like suspension of disbelief, attention to language, and shifts in perspective can be applied to an otherwise realist work of fiction.

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.


- At least one workshopped short story or novel excerpt

- Generative exercises and prompts

- An opportunity to meet with the instructor one-on-one for feedback

- Detailed critiques and notes from the instructor and peers

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Each week, students will need to complete a short reading assignment in advance of class, in addition to reading and writing notes on their peers' work. Writers will have the opportunity to workshop at least one story or novel excerpts (maximum of 20 pages, no minimum length). 

Hilary Leichter

Hilary Leichter is the author of the novel Temporary, which was shortlisted for The Center for Fiction's first novel prize. Her writing has appeared in n+1, The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times, and New York Magazine's The Cut. She teaches fiction at Columbia University and has been awarded fellowships from the Folger Shakespeare Library and the New York Foundation for the Arts.


“Hilary is a brilliant creative partner and deft surgeon. She understood the ambition of my draft and improved every aspect of the text, from narrative structure to sentence-level edits.”

Christine Coulson author of METROPOLITAN STORIES

“Hilary Leichter has a special form of magic. She can turn my stories inside out and pinpoint exactly where the story should raise the reader's blood pressure or break their heart. Then she shows me how to do it in her own weird and wonderful way.”

Xuan Juliana Wang author of HOME REMEDIES

"Hilary’s stories are bright, strange, devilish animals she coaxes, sentence-by-sentence, out of a dynamic abyss to partake in revelment on the page. Her wild imagination and sharp insight are why she’s one of my first readers, and her rigorous, reflective approach in the classroom is why she’s such a joy to teach with. Hilary is a generous, deeply creative artist and teacher who respects the original and obscure, guiding her students to discover their most essential work."

Ruchika Tomar author of A PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS

“Hilary and I have been in a writing group for years and all of my work is better for having had her as a reader. It’s possible I never made a better decision in life than to keep having her read my work as we moved on in our writing careers. One reason for this is how intuitively and open-heartedly she engages with work, especially work that is in progress, work that is still finding its way. The kind of work you, person reading this, are probably making right now. I think about the teachers who inspired me as a young writer and there were the established institutional professors who had been around forever, and the young exciting cutting edge artists. But Hilary has a bit of both in her. She has the wisdom about literature that makes you feel lucky to get to talk to her about it. And she has an inspired joy when it comes to creating work that spurs you to do more and do better with your own projects.”

Diane Cook author of MAN V. NATURE: STORIES

"TEMPORARY took me by storm. Each short chapter is a wallop of topsy-turvy wisdom and humor and together they build a strange and sparkling universe. The novel is about work and identity and the masks we wear, but it’s also about our weird little human hearts and what they can bear. I am a Hilary Leichter super-fan.”

Ramona Ausubel

“Leichter’s cutting, hilarious critique of the American dream will appeal to fans of Italo Calvino.”

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, starred review

“A narrative so deliciously allusive and disarmingly literal that this reader kept thinking maximum glee had been attained, only for the glee to somehow grow even more maximal just a few sentences later.”

Helen Oyeyemi

"I've taken several classes at Catapult and they're the most effective, enjoyable way for me to better my writing (I look forward to them for months!). I've also taken Hilary's class before and I, no exaggeration, have never had a more impactful writing instructor. I would take her workshop once a quarter if it was available."

former student