Writing for online venues demands careful and empathetic attention to our audience(s). Who, exactly, are we addressing, and how can we craft prose that is intellectually rigorous, stylistically compelling and, above all, accessible?
This six-week introductory seminar will explore nonfiction writing as a mode of public discourse. Ideal for writers who are accustomed to academic, or otherwise specialized writing, or who simply haven't had the occasion to experiment beyond their college essays, students will learn how to articulate complex ideas—whether about cultural phenomena or politics or personal experience—with clarity and precision, while cultivating a writerly voice that is unique to them. During our six weeks together, we will read contemporary nonfiction, from cultural essays to personal narratives to in-depth reported features, while discussing the moves writers make in order to tell a nuanced story that invites readers in, rather than alienating them.
How do we craft an argument that doesn't sound like it belongs in a Freshman Composition essay? Is academic jargon ever useful? Exactly how much research do we need to incorporate to make a point before it looks as if we're overcompensating? And how does one compose a pitch email? We'll tackle questions like these while students draft a piece of nonfiction writing of their own, on whatever topic and in whatever genre they choose. At the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to receive the instructor's feedback on their completed drafts and will be prepared to pitch it to an online venue.
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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Learn how to write about complex topics clearly and effectively
- Learn how to focus your writing around an argument or inquiry to give your work structure without sounding like the thesis of a college seminar paper
- Learn how to write an effective pitch email
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
The only required weekly work will be reading in advance of class, with the possible addition of a practice pitch email. Additionally, students will also be working on a piece of personal writing that they can submit to me by a deadline for feedback. Students will have the opportunity to interact with their peers’ writing as well; those who would like to receive feedback from their classmates will also be required to provide feedback in return.
Week One: Moving beyond the thesis statement
Week Two: Striking the right tone—trusting your audience, and what to do about jargon
Week Three: The research question—how much is too much?
Week Four: Getting personal—how to texture one's writing with personal anecdotes
Week Five: The business of writing a conclusion
Week Six: Pitching Workshop
Rachel Vorona Cote is the author of Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today, which was published in February 2020 by Grand Central Publishing. She also publishes frequently in such outlets as Longreads, the New Republic, Literary Hub, Pitchfork, Hazlitt, and Catapult, and was previously a contributing writer at Jezebel. She lives in Takoma Park, MD.
"I've known Rachel Vorona Cote for years, and I've both written with her and been edited by her. She's meticulous and precise, with a sharp sense of how to shape a piece of writing. While we have very different writing styles, Rachel never pushed her's onto me; rather, she helped me hone my ideas in my own voice. Rachel's critical eye always has compassion, and she'll push you to be a better writer and thinker."
"Rachel Vorona Cote is a wonderful writer and a thoughtful editor. She is patient but will push you to meet your goals, and offers constructive feedback that makes any piece she works on stronger. If I had the time and means, I’d sign up for her workshop myself."
"If more writers took the kind of care and attention Rachel does with her writing—and with her students—the creative landscape would be far better for it. She's an incredibly thoughtful, elegant writer and editor with a truly unique experience and perspective, and any writer, emerging or seasoned, could learn something valuable from the craft she's developed.”
“Rachel is a stunning writer with a gift for writing about the most complex of issues with grace and intellect; I frequently recommend her essays to others. Her students are lucky to have her in their corner.”