The body is the first point of entry for every experience we’ve ever had. It is the container for all of our thoughts and sensations, but our bodies also dictate the ways in which others perceive and experience us. This class will look at how writing about the body documents and manifests the relationship between experience and consciousness. It will examine questions of self, politics, and genre as questions of craft: How can we shape the physical worlds of our writing? How is the self—and the way we write about the self—shaped by its physical vessel? How can paying attention to the body improve our writing and generate new material?
In this workshop students will write prose – either fiction or non-fiction – that addresses the body. Students will read and analyze works by writers such as Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Eimear McBride, Garth Greenwell, Sinead Gleeson, Kiese Laymon, and James Baldwin with the goal of learning a wide variety of thematic approaches and formal techniques that they can use in their own work. The class will use six major bodily experiences to help mine the depths of possibilities: eating, movement, illness and injury, intimacy, altered states, and the body politic.
Students will have the opportunity to workshop two pieces of work during the course, as well as engage in exercises and prompts to help access different forms and ideas for writing about the body. In one private one-on-one conference, we will meet to discuss your stories in more detail, including ways to move forward in revisions
This course is open to all writers, from those just starting out and are unsure where to begin, to seasoned writers of any genre who are interested in writing about the body. Prior workshop experience is not necessary, but all members of the class must come to class prepared to discuss the readings, be willing to share their own writing, and be generous in their responses to their peers’ work.
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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- The opportunity to workshop two short stories and to meet with the instructor to discuss your writing process and ways to continue to polish your work in revision.
- Expanded knowledge of the possibilities for how to generate and structure work from bodily and lived experience.
- A tool kit of writing-prompts and exercises.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
There will be reading each week which will need to be completed before class. Students will need to read and write at least a single spaced page of response to the work of their peers being workshopped each week, to be completed before class. There will be a few exercises in class to help generate work and ideas, no more than one a week.
Week One: Welcome & Introductions
Week Two: Eating + Workshop
Week Three: Illness & Injury + Workshop
Week Four: Movement + Workshop
Week Five: Sex + Workshop
Week Six: Altered States + Workshop
Week Seven: The Body Politic + Workshop
Week Eight: Final Workshop and Final Thoughts
Madeleine Watts is a writer of fiction, stories, and essays. Her writing has been published in The Believer, The White Review, Literary Hub, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, and Guernica, amongst others. Her debut novel, The Inland Sea, was published by Catapult in 2021. Madeleine grew up in Sydney, and sometimes Melbourne, but she has been based in New York since 2013.
"A tricky marvel: melancholy and bright, ingenious and gentle, an emergency inside of an idyll. Watts is an exceptional talent."
"Madeleine Watts' INLAND SEA is full of heat and disquiet, an acute barometer of all kinds of interior and exterior weather. I could tell you that I found it astute and precise, almost savage in its eloquence, illuminating about what it feels like to love, to be left, to want more; and all of these things would be true, but what I really want to say is that it reached into a mysterious subcutaneous zone where I felt displaced, unhinged, inexplicably consoled, inexplicably rearranged, somehow enlarged."
"Brilliant and breathtaking … gives a precise glimpse into a world and a woman coming undone. I want everyone to read this provocative, perfect book."
"Madeleine Watts is an excellent editor and a generous reader of my work in progress. She has given me valuable feedback on both short stories and non-fiction work. She has excellent ideas and a great ability to sense the thread of a piece of writing!"
"Madeleine Watts is a fiercely insightful and generous reader, attentive to the larger thematic concerns of a piece and how these are manifested on a structural and sentence level. We have been sharing work since we were both students in the Columbia MFA program, and over time, she has remained one of my most trusted and most valuable readers. As a writer, she inspires me always to go to a deeper and truer place with my work, and I have gotten countless invaluable reading recommendations that have greatly influenced my work thanks to her incredibly vast knowledge for literature. I have no doubt that her guidance will provide similar inspiration to her students."