This class is about how to wield the power of brevity. We’ll explore how to craft short-form nonfiction (roughly, less than 750 words) that feels crystalline, visceral, and memorable — coiled writing that arrests from the first sentence and continually surprises. We’ll borrow techniques from memoirists, study tactics from reporters, learn from essayists, wring poetry out of seemingly marginal moments, apply concepts from sculpture and photography, and experiment with narrowing our focus and upping the intensity.
Part of the joy of a class on shorter writing is that there’s an opportunity to immerse in a broader range of sources, moods, styles, and forms. We’ll consider everything from graffiti, songs, and (literary) journal entries, in addition to micro-memoir, micro-essay, lyric essay, and related forms, reading writers like Maggie Nelson (Bluets), Paul Auster (The Red Notebook), Heidi Julavits (The Folded Clock), Charlie LeDuff (Work and Other Sins), Chloe Caldwell (Legs Get Led Astray), to name just a few, along with contemporary writing in places like HAD and The Sun.
Each class will be split between short lectures, discussions about selected readings, conversations about storytelling, and generative exercises. There will also be (optional) exercises assigned between classes to offer further avenues for honing your skills. My goal is to arm you with the tools to craft compelling nonfiction with an eye towards publication, building a muscle that is useful in pretty much every corner of the writing life. This class is open to any experience level from greenhorns to grizzled vets. Come one, come all.
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 tools and tactics to create highly polished pieces of short nonfiction
- Generative exercises meant for you to produce and stockpile seeds for many future pieces
- A walk-through of the submission process and a resource sheet for venues that publish short nonfiction
- A guided tour across the sprawling, ever-evolving flash nonfiction galaxy
- Become a sharper writer, whether working on your next essay or banging out a Tweet
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Out of class: a selection of short readings each week along with (optional) craft exercises / In class: generative writing exercises, sharing encouraged but optional. No written peer or instructor feedback will be given.
1. Moment Hunting
2. (Short) Storyteller's Toolkit
3. Setting Your Language on Fire
4. Sculpting Your Piece
Jason Schwartzman is the author of No One You Know: Strangers and the Stories We Tell, out this year from Outpost19. His essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Narratively, The Rumpus, Hobart, River Teeth, Human Parts, and elsewhere. Twitter: @jdschwartzman. Jason is a Founding Editor of True.Ink and a Biographer for Story Terrace. In his spare time, he stars in Wes Anderson movies. OK, OK, he may not be that Jason Schwartzman, but he can guarantee that he is, at the very least, a Jason Schwartzman.
"In the great tradition of wayward oral historians, this compelling debut from a talented new author is a vivid and sentient portrait of everyday Americana and the nature of intimacy. A quest for realness in an age of confusion, told through a series of rollicking encounters, the book’s charm lies hidden in the most meaningful place: between the lines. NO ONE YOU KNOW is indeed everyone you know. An important collection, well-observed, stitched and told."
"NO ONE YOU KNOW is sharply observational, atmospheric, with a clever surprise on every page. This debut is an understated and zoomed in account of what it means to be a person, and Jason Schwartzman is an exciting new voice to watch."
"Schwartzman is an interlocutor, a witness, an agitator. He is thirsty for meaning; he is a “hungry depository” for the lives of others. With the moral zip of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the sharp compassion of Lydia Davis, Schwartzman takes talking to strangers as praxis for discovering his own self. NO ONE YOU KNOW is a book that revels in the sweaty intimacy of being human among other humans."
“Jason is my most trusted editor. I actually keep all his ‘notes’ emails saved in a folder because they’re still useful to me months, even years, later. He’s my secret weapon for immediately feeling better and more confident about what I’m working on regardless of the genre or style of the piece. Together, we’re always able to figure out what’s still missing.”
“I think Jason is the cat’s meow! He’s warm, intelligent, provocative in his prompts. I always love his comments. He’s a mensch with a golden brain.”