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8-Week Nonfiction Workshop: The Art of the Crónica

As the great cronista Martín Caparrós once said: “Faced with the current media ideology, which tries to impose neutral language without a subject, which disguises itself as pure bearer of 'the reality', the Crónica that I am interested in uses the first-person not to talk about oneself but to point out there is a person who is watching, and who is telling the story. Believe him if you want, but never trust that what the person says is 'the reality'—it is only one of many possible points of view, and that's what makes the Crónica so political.”

The “crónica” has become the great genre of journalism in Spanish. Diverse, broadly free: it is the informative piece that uses the resources and techniques of fiction. In English, it is perhaps more commonly known as narrative journalism, literary journalism, or, simply, creative nonfiction. But the crónica is something much bigger. This workshop is for any journalist, memoir writer, or Latin American literature lover who wants to dive into the art of the crónica.

What is the difference between American narrative journalism (today's New New Journalism) and crónica? Crónica is about the facts, but it is also about the person who tells the story. In this workshop you will learn why crónica can be emotional, resilient, empathic, and also political.

These virtues, rarely combined in the American form of journalism, can certainly improve your nonfiction writing. In this workshop, you will also learn how to identify a good story, conduct interviews, and perform research.

In this workshop we will read some of the best crónicas (translated from Spanish): Rodolfo Walsh’s "Operation Massacre", Martín Caparrós’ "Hunger", Leila Guerriero’s "The Trace in the Bones", Julio Villanueva Chang’s "Señor Socket and the Señora from the Café", Alberto Fuguet’s "Missing (An Investigation)", Gabriela Wiener’s "Sexographies", Óscar Martínez’s "The Hollywood Kid", Joseph Zárate’s "An Ounce of Gold and Máxima Acuña Atalaya", Javier Sinay’s "The Murders of Moisés Ville"... and more. In each class session, we will study a particular technique or a narrative resource: i.e., the point of view of the cronista, or how to build real and exciting scenes. The exercises will be according to these techniques and narrative resources.

We will learn how different cronistas from across Latin America work—and their writing techniques. I will also show you step by step how I wrote some of my own award-winning crónicas.

This workshop is about crónica in all its dimensions: journalism, memoir, essay, Latin American literature.

*No class Dec. 20 or 27

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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

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

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Learn how to write about facts with your own point of view, using "I" if necessary —without ego!

- Write and workshop (at least) two crónicas of your own

- Analyze texts from 14 great nonfiction authors from Latin America

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

You will need to read in advance of class: you will have up to an hour and a half of reading assignments per week. And every week there will be writing exercises. You will be asked to share your writing with the class, and we will discuss everyone’s exercises as a group. The instructor will read and provide written feedback and oral critiques of students' writing. You will be welcomed (but not required) to provide oral feedback on your peers' work.

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1: What is a crónica? From the 19th century to today.

Week 2: Calibrating your point of view as a cronista. How to recognize a good story in the chaos of reality—and make the most of it? Workshop.

Week 3: How to find the right tone for your crónica? Examples of tones in crónica. Workshop.

Week 4: How not to lose focus (this is one of the biggest challenges when writing crónicas)? Create your direction axis. Workshop.

Week 5: How to do research for a crónica: archive, interviews, reading between the lines… Workshop.

Week 6: Constructing scenes: experiences, details and hinge moments. Workshop.

Week 7: Writing about reality in a hybrid, sincere way, without falling into commonplaces. Workshop.

Week 8: Ending the crónica. A general view.

Javier Sinay

Javier Sinay is a writer and journalist. He published the books The Murders of Moisés Ville, Camino al Este, Cuba Stone (co-authored) and Sangre joven (Rodolfo Walsh Prize in the Semana Negra de Gijón, Spain).

In 2015 he won the Gabriel García Márquez Award from the Gabo Foundation for his true-crime story “Rápido. Furioso. Muerto” [Fast. Furious. Dead], published in Rolling Stone (Argentina), a magazine of which he was editor.

He has taught creative nonfiction writing in Spain and in several Latin American countries.

Photo credit: Vera Rosemberg

Testimonials

"I greatly admire Javier Sinay's enlightening and humane account of his sleuthing—the disinterment of a violent episode of buried history—now no longer forgotten.."

Paul Theroux author of THE MOSQUITO COAST and UNDER THE WAVE AT WAIMEA

“Javier Sinay...is one of the most recent and interesting links between narrative journalism, American nonfiction, and the rich tradition of Argentinian detective literature.”

Rodrigo Márquez Tizano VICE

"Javier Sinay has taught me how to look at the chaos of reality like a cronista"

former student

"Javier Sinay is a cool teacher, he can certainly get you inside the world of Crónica"

former student