Online | Fiction | Workshop

4-Week Online Fiction Workshop: Fiction Beyond Realism

In an increasingly weird world, is literary realism the "realest" way to write?

Writing that defies traditional genre conventions is on the rise. Exemplified by the prevalence of new terms like "speculative fiction," nonrealist fiction has expanded far beyond niches like science fiction to become part of the literary mainstream.

In this course we will discuss various genres of nonrealist fiction—from magical realism to science fiction to fantasy to “the new weird”—in order to get the lay of the land and a sense of the scope of possibility. Stories from each genre (i.e. by Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, and Jeff VanderMeer) will provide a springboard for weekly writing exercises. However, the goal of the class is to move beyond conservative genre categories altogether, freeing students up to approach story construction in new ways, realist or not.

The course allows writers with experience in genre fiction to flex their muscles, but is also useful for realist writers who are feeling hemmed in or stifled in the writing process. Realism is itself a literary convention, and so understanding the myriad options for ways to construct a story according to different conventions can push writers to a more flexible understanding of realist strategies too.


- An understanding of what realist fiction is and isn’t

- An overview of the many ways to depart from realism

- A short story not beholden to realism, driven by a unique voice

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Weekly flash fiction (2-5 pages) based on genre examples, workshopped by group

- Final story (12-15 pages), workshopped by group with written feedback from instructor

- Weekly fiction readings (20-30 pages)


Week 1: Where is the "science" in science fictions?/Readings + flash fiction assignment

Week 2: Fantasy & what is possible in fictional worlds/Readings + workshop

Week 3: What is weird?/Readings + workshop

Week 4: Crafting the unreal/Workshop

Elvia Wilk

Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in New York and Berlin. She writes about art, architecture, and technology for several publications, including frieze, Artforum, e-flux, Metropolis, Mousse, Flash Art, Art in America, and Zeit Online. Her first novel, Oval, comes out from Soft Skull in June 2019.


"It is undeniable to say Elvia is anything but informed and passionate on her teaching to the highest degree. The class was organized to a T."

former student

"Elvia was excited and always prepared for class. What made her a great professor was her genuine love of the subject and ability to explain complex ideas effectively. She had an overall inviting/warmth to her class and was always polite to her students. She always updated the syllabus and emailed back efficiently.”

former student

"Elvia brought a lot of energy into the classroom. Conversation was lively and engaging."

former student

"Elvia is a great instructor. She is clearly passionate about the topics she teaches and picks very interesting and educational readings. She knows how to connect art work that may have been created years ago, to modern times. She also has an understanding of the modern world, so it never felt like she was talking about something we couldn't relate to."

former student

"Deeply weird and unsettlingly hilarious, Wilk's dystopian debut pushes the grim absurdities of the present just a little bit further, into a near future that's too plausible for comfort . . . The book's true surprise is its startling emotional kick: If the circumstances are heightened to extremes, the relationships―with their delicate dynamics―are all too real. Witty and alarming, a satire with (unexpected) heart."

KIRKUS REVIEWS starred review

“A fascinating near-future exploration of relationships, sustainability, and power. An extraordinarily accomplished debut novel.”

Jeff VanderMeer author of BORNE and ANNIHILATION

“Elvia Wilk’s OVAL is a marvel. At the core of this seductive, acute, superbly-contemporary update of mid-period J.G. Ballard lies a deep-beating, deep-dreaming heart.”

Jonathan Lethem novelist