Ever felt so moved or struck by a piece of art or music that you needed to put it into words or just tell someone about it? This class is in many ways all about that moment and why it matters.
In this class, we’ll unpack why some artworks resonate and shake us up. Our reasons will be vastly varied, but will often bring us back to politics, history, and our own personal experiences. Having clarity about these connections helps to make our writing stronger.
This workshop will guide you in writing essays and critical reviews about art and culture that get your readers to care. You may have never written about books, art, music, theater, film, or dance before, but you’ve likely had some deeper thought or reaction to at least one of those things. I encourage and welcome writers of all stripes and levels to tap into those moments and see what comes of it. Writing about culture can be an illuminating lens onto the world and a means to communicate about a wide array of topics.
This class is as much about improving your writing as situating it within broader cultural and political conversations. In addition to getting individualized, attentive feedback on your work, in this class you will also learn from other writers, including Vivian Gornick, Olivia Laing, John Berger, Hilton Als, Jia Tolentino, and Margaret Fuller. We’ll consider how they have pulled in their readers, made convincing arguments, or evoked an artwork in a vivid, unforgettable way.
- Write a polished, meaningful piece on a cultural experience
- Develop a compelling nonfiction writing style
- Learn how to pitch and get a sense for what editors are looking for
- Have a deeper understanding of how writers have discussed culture in the past and in the current critical landscape
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Weekly short writing assignments (1–2 paragraphs)
- Weekly readings (30–50 pages, with less reading as we increasingly focus on writing)
- Submit one essay for critique (anywhere between 3 and 10 pages)
Week 1: Why Write About Art and Culture?
Read essays about the role of cultural criticism and why we do it
Week 2: Getting Started
Look at the beginnings of multiple pieces and write the opening paragraphs for your own essays
Week 3: The Situation vs. the Story
Articulate (with the help of Vivian Gornick) what your story is/Workshop #1
Week 4: Down with Artspeak and In Praise of Clarity
Master clarity as an effective tool in writing/Workshop #2
Week 5: Making a Convincing Argument
Learn from pieces with strong, and sometimes controversial, takes/Workshop #3
Week 6: Revisions and Advice on Pitching and Publishing/Workshop #4
Elisa Wouk Almino is a writer, editor, and literary translator from Portuguese. Currently the L.A. senior editor at Hyperallergic and editor of Harlequin creature's online translation platform, her writing and translations have appeared in Guernica, Paris Review Daily, The Millions, The Nation, Hyperallergic, and Words Without Borders, where she was formerly the book reviews editor. She has published Ana Martins Marques' translated poetry in the book This House, which Elisa also illustrated. She is the editor of a monograph on the artist Alice Trumbull Mason (forthcoming Spring 2020).
"I’ve been lucky to have Elisa as a trusted reader and editor for the past ten years. Her writing about art and culture is sharply observant, informed by a deep knowledge of history, and often surprisingly personal. She deftly avoids the type of overwrought art-speaky gibberish that makes so many gallery press releases such ripe targets for parody, opting instead for clear, elegant prose that draws meaning out of even the most inscrutable images. Her work as a translator adds a unique depth to her approach; she’ll teach you to think carefully and critically about how we translate images and emotions into words—a valuable skill both on and off the page."
"In her writing, Elisa marries clarity of thought with a poetic sensibility—two elements that aren’t found together often enough. Her ideas and arguments are deep and wide-ranging, but she presents them in a way that feels light, almost effortless. Every time I read Elisa’s work, I love feeling like I'm gaining greater insight into the workings of her brain."
"Elisa Wouk Almino was my first editor when I started freelancing at Hyperallergic three years ago, and I immediately enjoyed working with her. She approaches each piece with criticality and candor, and having her edit a piece is always an approachable lesson in strengthening and streamlining my writing. She also treats editing as a collaborative process, seeking real input from her writers, which in my experience is quite rare. It's something many editors don't seem to have the time or desire to do, and Elisa does it with care."
"Elisa has been my editor for the past three years at Hyperallergic. Thanks to her guidance, my writing has remarkably improved. She excels at explaining the nuances of techniques in an approachable yet intelligible way, and because of her guidance I can now happily report that I am a staff writer there."
"I truly cannot say enough about Elisa as an editor. I am a freelance writer and work with many different editors at many different publications, and always feel that Elisa brings an exceptionally sharp mind and thoughtful perspective to my work. I trust her absolutely, and find that she has the dual ability to edit for content and tone, as well as grammar and the ever-needed typo-check! I am tremendously grateful to her for always strengthening my writing, and communicating about our shared work in a prompt, professional, conscientious, and positive way. She will be an asset to ANY organization. "
"I absolutely loved Elisa's teaching style—she was professional, warm, approachable, informative, and helpful. Her syllabus and assigned readings were so thoughtful and really gave me a new insight into the field of translation. She goes above and beyond and I saw that she was totally invested in our progress and the class. I completely recommend her as a teacher and would love to work closely with her in the future."