What is time? No, not the existential debate though that does, in these times, ahem, seem more pertinent than ever. Instead, we’ll focus on how time shapes stories or personal essays, and its role in moving a narrative forward, back, or to another zone altogether. Each week, we’ll cover a specific technique—like flashback or fragments—which we’ll read about in a craft essay, and see employed in a short essay or story (both of which will be provided by the instructor). You’ll then try out this technique in your own writing, giving you the chance to write four short pieces of about 1,000 words (or less). These can build up to one longer piece, or four shorter, stand-alone pieces. This writing should not be thought of as “final” versions, or even completed pieces. They’re meant to be new work you try out, receive some feedback on, and then develop.
Your response to one of the prompts will go through a short workshop with your peers, focusing specifically on the technique. Writers at all levels interested in writing fiction or nonfiction are welcome!
The goal of this class is to give you a chance to try specific techniques that we use to signal how time moves in a story or an essay. Some of them are ones you’re familiar with — flashback, for example — but may not be aware of, or have not used intentionally in your writing. No matter your experience in creative writing, the aim is that you become a more confident and adept writer by learning, and applying “time-tested” (ha ha) techniques used by writers (including some very well-known ones.)
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.
- A clear understanding of the importance of time as a narrative device
- Knowledge of at least 3 techniques that use temporality
- Students' new writing employing a technique taught in class based on prompts from me
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Each week, we’ll cover a specific technique that shows how time is used in creating a narrative. We will read (in advance of class) a short craft essay and a short piece of prose (essay or story) that I provide that utilizes the technique we are discussing the following week. I will also teach a bit about the technique in our class. And then, you’ll apply that technique in your creative writing outside of class.
Students should be prepared to do the assigned reading and be prepared to discuss, as well as read and leave a short response (250-300 words) on their peers’ workshop submissions. Additionally, students will be expected to write 750-1,000 words each week.
Introductions, Workshop Schedule, What is Workshop
Intro to Writing Time Technique 1: Establishing “When”
Technique 2: The Clock of Your Prose
Technique 3: Flashback
Technique 4: Scene/Summary and Sliding
Technique 4: Starting at the Ending
What next, Evaluations
Bix Gabriel is a writer, teacher of creative writing, editor at The Offing magazine, 2021 Periplus Fellow, co-founder of TakeTwo Services, occasional Tweeter, and seeker of the perfect jalebi.
She has a M.F.A in fiction from Indiana University-Bloomington, and her writing appears in the anthology A Map is Only One Story, on Longleaf Review, Catapult, Guernica, and Electric Literature, among others. Her debut novel, Archives of Amnesia, was a finalist for the 2021 PEN Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
She was born in Hyderabad, India, and lives in Queens, NY.
“The interaction between the student and instructor was fun and informative. I thought Bix did a great job of drawing out the shy members of the class and valuing everyone’s opinion.”
"The most valuable part of this class for me was: 'The craft instruction/discussion, the thoughtful input from other students, and the way Bix set up the readings and workshop.'”
"Bix, thank you so much for being so compassionate and smart and for bringing this group together. Years and years from now I will remember this class and think—I can’t believe what joy I could feel during a national crisis and be grateful for you!"
"Bix’s manuscript, ARCHIVES OF AMNESIA, is an ambitious, exciting novel, dynamically cross-cultural and transnational, and tackles urgent themes such as terrorism, migration, and familial and national identities. The book is a timely and penetrating study of the effects of war on terror, and how old and nearly-forgotten histories, such as Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, continue to haunt characters who live halfway around the world. It’s a story of interconnectedness, a reminder that we are more alike than different, whether we live in New York City or Dhaka, whether we live in 2017 or 1971."
"Bix Gabriel’s fiction and nonfiction are electric, connecting worlds in ways that spark a hunger in this reader to see more, to eat more, to do more. As a teacher, she knows how to nudge her students out of their previous assumptions and away from their bad habits, the repeat-performance moves that have no place on the page. Bix’s warmth, wisdom, and humor illuminate every interaction with her students. From the start, she’ll call you “dear,” and she means it. "