I can tailor these topics as 60-90 minute lectures or 3+ hour intensive workshops.

The Big Thing: Writing a Novel

I break down the process into a series of manageable steps. I can deliver a craft lecture + writing exercises on any of these topics.

  • Character: What’s My Motivation?
  • Scenes: Building Blocks of the Novel
  • Subplots: Weaving Multiple Layers
  • Structure: The Shape of Your Story
  • Stakes: Increasing the Voltage of Your Story
  • Setting: Nowhere and Everywhere become Somewhere
  • Theme: How Stories Mean

A Big Thing is Made of Smaller Things: Writing a Novel-in-Stories

Linked stories are often published individually, but when they appear in book form, unified by setting, theme, characters, or geography, they can become a “novel in stories.” We’ll discuss the pros and cons of this form and how you might even be working in it already. You’ll leave with reading list and concrete strategies that will help you bring greater unity to your work.

The Stunt Book: Writing the Immersion Memoir

In books like Do Over!, Julie and Julia, and The Year of Living Biblically, authors create a frame in which to actively engage in experience and memory. What are the opportunities and challenges of writing in this genre? Is it a gimmick? Or is it a clever way to create and shape a novel-length reading experience?

Based on a True Story: The Line between Fiction and Nonfiction

Cathy discusses the line between “nonfictional fiction” and “creative nonfiction” in her own work and offers advice about how you can decide whether something you’re working on is fiction, nonfiction, or something in between.

Storyboard Your Novel/Memoir

A hands-on extension of the “Writing a Novel” craft talk. Most of us learn to write by focusing on short, manageable story forms, such as flash fiction, short stories, or essays. But how do we move from “the small thing” to “the big thing”? In this intensive prose session, author Cathy Day will offer practical advice on how to make this shift in your writing life, including in-class writing exercises that will help you create a blueprint or “storyboard” for the book you want to write. Participants are encouraged to bring a package or two of index cards or Post-it Notes (low tech option) or a laptop equipped with a software program they are already familiar with such as Linoit, Evernote, Stickies, or Scrivener (high tech option). Come with an idea for a book you want to write or have just started, not one you have already written. 

Turn Your Stories into a Novel, Your Essays into a Memoir

This is a continuation of the “Writing Linked Stories” lecture in which you’ll learn how to bring greater unity to a group of disparate stories or essays. The hands-on learning activities in this session will help you to re-see your work. I offer concrete strategies that will enable you to leave the session with a blueprint of your book-in-progress.