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6-Week Open-Genre Workshop: Writing With Authority

In this workshop, you will revise and improve lively stories written from a place of “not knowing.” If you don’t come to workshop with the draft of a story (fiction, flash, and creative nonfiction welcome), that’s okay—you will be encouraged to generate one during the course. When we write and revise stories in this workshop, we will strive for clarity and control, but also experiment and innovation. While many workshops focus on plot, narrative clarity, and craft, this class will be more interested in clear, even beautiful prose that strives for something indescribable. Instead of following that old adage, “write what you know,” we’ll be examining the flip side in this class: write what you don’t know, but do it with authority.

You will also read examples of excellent, lively fiction from around the world and then write experimental, short-short pieces that are inspired by these excellent stories. You will submit your original fiction (can be longer than the experiments, or the expanded experiments themselves) and receive feedback from a group of writers. With the help of peers and your instructor, you will work toward having a good, revised short story to submit for publication.


- An understanding of how one might achieve the authoritative voice even (or especially) on subjects one knows nothing about (This authoritative voice is not to be confused with the error of assuming specific voices from specific places that are external to your experience)

- Two workshopped short stories

- A handful of short-short experimental works that you may wish to fertilize beyond the class

- Detailed instructor feedback on your submissions, and responses from the instructor to your specific concerns about your work

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Week 1. Read one assigned short story or novel excerpt

Week 2. Write a short fiction that emulates last week's short story or novel excerpt and share it with the class

Week 3. With class, share a revised short fiction that you think could be published some day

Week 4. Read the work of your peers and write comments in response

Week 5. Workshop

Week 6. What can we learn from fiction?

Elliot Reed

Elliot has lived many places and done different things for a living. His goal for a long time has been to write fiction that people want to read. He earned his MFA from the University of Florida. He published his first novel, A Key to Treehouse Living,  in 2018. The novel is written as a series of brief, glossary-style entries that subtly build a story over time. He's also published short stories, interviews, and essays, and believes there are many ways to write exciting stories that we've never heard before. He finds good fiction is usually both delightful and frightening.


"Disorienting, weirdly wise, indescribably transparent, impossibly recognizable. Fun, too."

Joy Williams author

"Huckleberry Finn advanced out of antebellum doldrums into the poetic modern perverse, with the same charm. Subtle, daring, brilliant."

Padgett Powell novelist

"Powered in part by longing and a need to make odd associations add up, this novel employs jelly beans and gypsies, tree forts and rafts, and a character known as El Hondero to trace the odd conjuring that this narrator brings us in on."

Amy Hempel author

"Your class was like a road trip with someone you don’t know very well but the trip ends up being special because of that person. What I mean is, being your student was easy, like sitting in a car. When you lectured, it felt like you were just talking to me. I tell my friends the things you say."

former student

"Listening to you was like reading; I walked out of Dauer Hall with a dialogue underneath me. My wheels turned and I felt like I could say something important. I felt more important. Before college, I was strictly a math and science kid. The English language was a scary tool I did not know how to use; I failed exams. Teachers told me I better try something else. But you took me seriously, and for that I will always be grateful."

former student

"You were never pretentious, which I greatly appreciate. You hesitated when you needed to, and added in things like, “I’m not sure, that is just my taste.” But it all came with a comforting authority rooted in an understanding of fiction rather than a control of our grades. And you let us know you just enough. The anecdotes you shared made everything feel more relaxed, and maybe that is why you were never pretentious. You never forced a type of thinking or particular way of writing; we were all in this together. We all shared what we knew and were never made to feel dumb for not knowing."

former student