Online | Open-Genre | Workshop

8-Week Open-Genre Workshop: Writing Nonlinear Prose

Sometimes the beginning isn’t the best place to start. This course will take a close look at narratives that play with time and structure: stories that go backwards, essays disguised as quizzes, competing parallel plot-lines, and more!

We will look closely at published stories and essays from writers such as Ted Chiang, Matthew Salesses, and Jeneé Skinner to see how other authors have fractured linear timelines to add power and depth to their tales. We will also write and workshop our own non-linear narratives, paying special attention to how the structure and content of a piece work together.

This course is for writers of fiction and/or creative non-fiction at any level. Beginners and experienced writers are both welcome to join in this contemplation of literary time travel.

Students will read short stories and essays, participate in focused discussions on craft, complete short generative assignments, and submit their own work for workshop twice over the course of eight weeks. We’ll end with a conversation about finding markets, submitting and publishing our 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 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.  


- A deeper understanding of how to play with structure and time in your prose

- Two workshopped stories or essays

- Knowledge of the current market for short prose, and how and where to submit your polished pieces

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will be expected to read 1-2 published stories/essays to prepare for class discussion each week and to complete short, generative writing exercises to practice elements of craft. Students will also submit 2 stories or essays (up to 5,000 words) for workshop and provide written feedback on their peers’ manuscripts.


Week 1: Introductions, Expectations and Revving Up

Week 2: Back to the Future: Moving Forward by Moving Back

Week 3: Hidden Narratives: Hermit Crab Stories/Essays

Week 4: Then and Now: Building Character

Week 5: Anchors and Signposts: Achieving Clarity

Week 6: A Spoonful of Sugar: Balancing Narrative and Fact

Week 7: Fracture and Wounds: Breaking Time to Explore Emotion

Week 8: Submitting and Publishing: A Practical Guide

Aubrey Hirsch

Aubrey Hirsch is a current NEA fellow and the author of WHY WE NEVER TALK ABOUT SUGAR, a short story collection, and THIS WILL BE HIS LEGACY, a flash fiction chapbook. Her stories, essays and comics have appeared in The New York Times, American Short Fiction, Black Warrior Review, Vox, The Nib, The Florida Review, TIME, Hobart, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has taught creative writing courses to undergraduate and graduate students at Oberlin College, The Colorado College, the University of Pittsburgh, Georgia College and State University, and Chatham University.


"Aubrey Hirsch is a bright shining star of a writer and the stories in her flawless debut collection, WHY WE NEVER TALK ABOUT SUGAR, are a little disturbing and a little strange and a little sweet but always a lot to hold on to. Hirsch shows us the charm of her imagination and how carefully she will break your heart. This is a book you will keep coming back to, the one you won t be able to stop talking about because it's that damn good."

Roxane Gay

"In WHY WE NEVER TALK ABOUT SUGAR, Aubrey Hirsch posits an uncertain world, offering us her characters at their most confused, frightened, obsessed. As protection against their troubles, these men and women cling often to science, and also to story and if these two ways of seeing cannot always save them, then still they might provide some comfort, some necessary and sustaining faith, the mechanisms of what greatest mysteries might await us all, when all else is stripped away.

Matt Bell

"Each story in WHY WE NEVER TALK ABOUT SUGAR is a Petri dish, a distinct world in which a particle is discovered, a lake vanishes, but the narrative microscope never forgets that what really matters are the characters. This fiction is lyrical and wicked smart, reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Miranda July. So, here's my hypothesis: Aubrey Hirsch is a bright new voice in American fiction"

Cathy Day

"Aubrey's workshops not only enlivened my work and my spirit, they gave me tangible, usable tools that I have been able to incorporate into my daily creative practice. She has the unique ability to encourage imagination and to help a writer learn how to deploy their imagination out there in the "writing world." I think of prompts and feedback from Aubrey every time I sit down to write, and I find that my writing - and my whole self, really - is better having had her as a guide. "

Mike McClelland author of GAY ZOO DAY

"The environment that Professor Hirsch fostered led to more trust and risk-taking than I had experienced in most of my courses, but my greatest takeaway was watching how she encouraged, guided, corrected and refined us all. I realize she was teaching us by example how to do the same, as the expectation was that we were supposed to be growing because of one another, rather than alongside."

Nick Barletta

"When I taught with Aubrey at the University of Pittsburgh, we'd occasionally talk about the writing assignments we were giving our students. Aubrey's assignments were always so imaginative and fun. I often stole them, and they were always big hits. Students loved and got a ton out of them. I've seen her give craft lectures and talks at conferences, and I often found myself wishing I could take a class with her. Even after I published a couple books."