“Every writer should leap at the chance to study with this instructor.” - former student
This is a course for students working on personal essays, articles, and creative nonfiction in general. Nonfiction, on the surface, may seem simple: you tell the truth with the written word. In reality, however, the genre is more complex than it may seem. We all have stories to tell—stories hidden away in our attics, memories we encounter when we least expect them, hidden narratives—but how do we tell them, and what makes them work?
This class will examine the techniques that nonfiction writers employ in order to better understand how a piece of nonfiction is put together and why it works. We will investigate, in-depth, a variety of literary techniques from many different writers from across the globe, like narrative structure, characterization in nonfiction, tension, scene-building, the use of subtext, and more. Along the way, we will learn about various genres of nonfiction, from the confessional to Gonzo to lyrical essays, and we will, finally, attempt to define nonfiction as a whole: what nonfiction can—or should—do. You will learn the beautiful, and sometimes surprising, mechanics of nonfiction by reading a variety of contemporary and older writers, as well as the work of your peers in class. Whether you are a total newbie to nonfiction or a more seasoned writer, there will be something in this class for you.
As we explore these techniques, you will have weekly opportunities to practice them through writing exercises. You will also have two chances to share nonfiction that you’re working on with us in a workshop for honest, open-hearted feedback from your instructor and from the other students. Beyond this, you will be able to meet with the instructor for one-on-one feedback over the phone to discuss works-in-progress and your goals as a writer. At the end of our class, we will talk about pitching and publishing the nonfiction you’ve been working on—and, most importantly, how you can take what you’ve learnt in this class to go out into the world—or to station yourself squarely in a (semi-)quiet room of one’s own—and become a better, more confident writer. For me, nonfiction teaches us, ultimately, something about what it means to be human, in all its messy and marvelous beauty—and learning how writers do so will, in turn, teach us something about ourselves.
This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class.
- Intensive, nurturing feedback from both your instructor and your peers on two submissions
- Access to lectures and to a variety of texts
- One private conference (via phone or Skype) with the instructor to discuss your writing, your goals, and areas for improvement
- Greater familiarity with a wide variety of nonfiction writing and knowledge of how and why pieces work
- A better understanding of what editors are usually looking for when you pitch an idea to them
- Exclusive access to Catapult’s alumni newsletter and a 10% discount on all future classes
- Greater confidence as a writer, on and off the page
Week 1: Intro to the course, workshop scheduling, and discussion about what nonfiction is, your writing processes, and your goals as a writer
Week 2: Narrative structures, workshop #1
Week 3: Creating characters in nonfiction, workshop #2
Week 4: Tension and subtext, workshop #3
Week 5: Language and style, workshop #4
Week 6: Pitching, queries, agents, publishing advice, workshop #5
“Gabrielle Bellot bends the boundaries between what we think of as fiction and non-fiction. Not in the way of lies or half-truth, but of the deeper truths that don’t come easily into the light. She’s reminding us that the world, its nations, its people are made of stories. A ‘fact’ a ‘history’ is just a kind of story that gets told by enough people to become the story everyone accepts and tells themselves over and over every day. Like ‘America’ or ‘woman.’ Sometimes the only way we can see these stories is through fiction. Gender is one of the stories we are telling ourselves as the world tells its own story about gender, about our bodies and how they are, how they should be. This ‘should be’ is a kind of violence, a kind of magic because we cannot see it working. Gabrielle Bellot is doing the hard work of revealing it for us in ways that are beautiful and terrible. Nancy Jooyoun Kim put it best: ‘It’s work that is not just breathtaking in its lyricism, but demanding on absolutely every level—political, social, emotional, cellular—you name it.’ Yes.”
“Gabby is one of the very best writers I know (have known, ever).”
“While Gabrielle’s work speaks to politics and racial and gender identity, she also analyzes the literary canon. Looking at world-building to presentations of characters in classics like INVISIBLE MAN and Ray Bradbury, Gabrielle provides a refined approach to examining seminal works in current times.”
“I just wanted to say that Gabrielle is the coolest professor I've ever had. She’s so incredible in so many ways and she really made us all feel comfortable, although the class could have easily been incredibly scary. I always felt as though she would read my work with an open mind and a real effort to understand. She always did understand, too. It's very scary as a writer who normally does not share their work, but she helped many of us come out of our shells and feel talented and capable. In addition to this, she did not hold back from giving actual feedback. Her criticism was valuable and helpful without hurting our fragile, aspiring hearts.”
“In my experience, Gabrielle Bellot is a wonderfully knowledgeable, diligent, and tactful editor. Her abilities seem to far surpass her years. Through Gabby’s mentorship, I am developing a more nuanced—and more professional—understanding of my work. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to learn from her. She has so successfully internalized technique that she teaches it naturally, and with grace. Her literary insights are profound and rare. Every writer should leap at the chance to study with this instructor.”