What gives our stories propulsion? What makes our readers turn the page? You may have been told it’s plot, but if you’ve ever heard your story is great but nothing happens in it or felt tired with Aristotle’s narrative arc, this class is for you. We will rethink the engine of our stories by reimagining plot and what makes our stories propulsive to read. Stories do need stakes, and they do need an engine, but that engine is not one-size-fits-all; it is something you as a writer can decide upon, based on your own interests and obsessions.
We will read various stories and discuss what propels them, trying to pin down what it is that made those stories “move” for us, and in the process discover a variety of ways to create suspense, stakes, and motion within our stories. We will read fiction from Kristiana Kahakauwila, Bryan Washington, Weike Wang, James Baldwin, Garth Greenwell, Pik-Shuen Fung, and Carmen Maria Machado. We will also look to flash fiction and poetry for examples of compression and emotional movement, including Patricia Smith, Solmaz Sharif, Aracelis Girmay, and K-Ming Chang. The first two classes will focus on craft discussion and the following six classes will be split between craft discussion and time for workshop. There will also be time for generative writing exercises.
One full-ride scholarship will be awarded for this class to a BIPOC writer. To apply, please send [email protected] your bio and a brief (100-word) statement on why taking this class is important to you by July 15th, with the subject line "Kyle Lucia Wu Class Scholarship."
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.
- Writers will learn to discern what they find most propulsive in fiction, and how to access that in their own stories. They will study and practice how to strengthen vital elements of craft, based upon which elements are most useful for their particular writing.
- Writers will learn how to talk about their work and each other’s work in more productive ways, and learn how to take feedback and plan on revision.
- Writers will come away with one workshopped story and a revision plan on where to go next.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Students will read 5-30 pages of published writing every week for our craft discussion and should be prepared to engage in several in-class writing exercises.
- Workshop begins in the third week, and students will be expected to read 1-2 stories from their peers each week and be prepared to discuss with written comments.
- Writers will submit one piece for workshop, 15 double-spaced pages maximum. Students will pair up with each other to talk about their submissions and help facilitate each other’s workshops prior to their scheduled workshop session. This will help students become familiarized with how to have a successful workshop, talk about a story, and which questions to ask, helping to guide how you will ask for feedback in the future. These partner-led workshops will require two 30-minute outside meetings in total with your partner, which can be scheduled at a mutually agreeable time before each of your workshops.
Week 1: What is the Engine? We’ll discuss what makes stories move and what we see as the engine from our assigned reading, and have time for generative writing exercises.
Week 2: Compression and Emotional Movement: We’ll discuss what we can learn from flash fiction and poetry, and have time for generative writing exercises.
Week 3: Discussing Openings in Fiction, and Workshop #1. We’ll read several different openings from fiction and discuss how to write an opening with the most punch.
Week 4: Workshop #2
Week 5: Spareness vs. Maximalist Craft Talk + Workshop #3. We’ll think about the emotional impact of both spare and maximalist writing through reading examples.
Week 6: Workshop #4
Week 7: Frames for Writing + Workshop #5. We’ll talk about different frames to write a story through, and how those can create suspense and stakes of their own.
Week 8: Workshop #6 + Discussion + Salon. We’ll have our final craft discussion and our final workshop, as well as a short salon, where everyone will read an excerpt of a writing exercise they wrote throughout the workshop.
Kyle Lucia Wu is the author of Win Me Something (Tin House Books 2021), an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the co-author of the forthcoming A is for Asian American: A Children's Guide to Asian American History (Haymarket Books 2023). She is the Managing Director at Kundiman and teaches writing at Fordham University and The New School.
"Something I particularly admired about Professor Wu was how much she believes in her students and the little things she does to let us know that she does in fact believe in us. She did something I felt was remarkably outstanding for a professor. Sure, I've had handfuls of professors who were inspiring and passionate about leading their students to do their best. But Professor Wu makes sure her students' work does not go unnoticed and she does little things to inspire us to take further steps in writing."
"Kyle is a unique teacher, in my experience, because you can feel in her classes what her intentions are. She seems to arrive with premeditation, forethought, and intention for each and every class/assignment."
"In WIN ME SOMETHING, Kyle Lucia Wu examines the biracial experience with razor sharp precision, nuance, and profound feeling. Her prose radiates off the page, with every color, character, and scrap of food animating the world of this story, all of it asking who, and what, is of value in America? I love the gentle candor of Wu’s prose, the sneaky devastation. Her debut is a resonant knockout. "