Online | Fiction | Workshop

8-Week Advanced Fiction Workshop: Embracing Not-Knowing

“Writing,” says Donald Barthelme in his iconic essay “Not-Knowing,” “is a form of dealing with not-knowing. A forcing of how and what.”

This course, intended for students with a grasp of the fiction basics and previous workshop experience, will explore how we move beyond the fundamentals of craft and deal instead with the fundamental question of fiction: not-knowing. How do we give our stories form and shape?

In order to approach this question (but not answer; the question is impossible to answer) we’ll read theoretical essays in order to expand our understanding of what a work of fiction might look like and how to fill the void of the blank page. Readings include craft essays by Donald Barthelme, Aimee Bender, Alexander Chee, Anthony Doerr, and Flannery O’Connor, among others. In addition to our weekly readings and discussions we’ll also be engaged in our own workshops. Students will workshop two short stories over the course of this eightweek class.

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.

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Detailed peer and instructor feedback on two short stories

- One-on-one instructor conference to provide specific feedback on work and advice for goals

- Deeper understanding of fiction form and theory

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students are responsible for weekly readings, which include craft essays and workshop pieces, which students will provide written feedback on ahead of our class meetings. Workshop pieces are limited to 15 pages.


Week 1: Intros & Ruhl essays

Week 2: Not-Knowing

Week 3: The Nature and Aim of Fiction / Workshop 1

Week 4: On The Making of Orchards / Workshop 2

Week 5: The Sword of Damocles / Workshop 3

Week 6: On Likability / Workshop 4

Week 7: 100 Things About Writing a Novel / Workshop 5

Week 8: Farewell / Workshop 6

Bryan Hurt

Bryan Hurt is the author of Everyone Wants to Be Ambassador to France (Red Hen, 2018), selected as the winner of the 10th Annual Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction. He is the editor of Watchlist: 32 Stories By Persons of Interest (OR Books/Catapult, 2016) and Midwest editor for Joyland Magazine. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and named finalist for the Calvino Prize and Horatio Nelson Prize in Fiction. He's received fellowships from the Sewanee and Tin House Writers' Conferences and holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from USC.


"Bryan is an excellent teacher. He is fun, engaging, helpful and insightful when reading and workshopping stories. He is very good about separating what you intended to do with a story and what you actually did, something that is very helpful for a learning writer."

former student

"Bryan is one of the best professors I have had and I think that is due to how genuine he is. A strength is how he structured the class, with basic things that needed to be covered and then room for discussion that didn't seemed forced."

former student

“The fictional love child of Miranda July, George Saunders, and A.M. Holmes, Hurt’s debut collection combines farfetchedness and dark humor with just enough tenderness to make everything feel true.”

Courtney Maum author of TOUCH and COSTALEGRE

“I have been a longtime fan of Bryan Hurt’s stories and what a joy to have them all together now in this book! They are a soup pot of the funniest dry sentences plus unusual facts that he unearthed from who knows where, and an unstated humanity tucked inside those facts, and a constant eye on the oddness of culture and the lilt of a well-placed phrase and a carrot. In our endlessly data-packed world, Hurt’s keen sparseness is a welcome addition to the bookshelves.”

Aimee Bender author of THE GIRL FLAMMABLE SKIRT

“Bryan Hurt’s stories are like no one else’s. They are by turns hilarious, whimsical, arresting, and heartbreaking, but what makes them such a delight is the sly simplicity and off-handed charm of their telling.”

T.C. Boyle American novelist