Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Fiction Workshop: Generating & Sustaining Tension

Tension is more than the driving force of plot. Tension sustains a story's interior life, carrying the unsolvable elements that keep us, as writers, invested enough to finish and polish our projects. This course's mission is to make the generation of tension—both a story's surface conflicts, and the deeper bands of desire and unrest pulling beneath—a more organic part of our writing, sacrificing neither artistry nor dynamism.

We'll focus on major aspects of craft (scene, description, even sound and syntax) in order to perfect the tension that both haunts and hastens our stories. The classroom experience will offer vigorous generative exercises, and opportunities to share these pieces, as well as two formal rounds of workshops. This course is suitable for all levels, and particularly instructive for those wanting to transform work burdened by exposition into readable, scene-balanced drafts. This is an opportunity to become a better agent of your own method--in deepening your understanding of your own work, you can transform your revision experience, making the prospect of editing less a frustrating exercise and more an exciting opportunity to clarify your vision.


- Enrich your stories with depth and allure in order to keep you invested enough to revise those stories to perfection

- Better balance plot, momentum, and scene with exposition to grant your writing a sharper sense of movement

- Participate in two rounds of formal workshops

- Discover new material with generative writing and revision exercises

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

Kayla Rae Whitaker

Kayla Rae Whitaker's work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, Lenny, and others. She has an MFA from New York University. Her novel The Animators was awarded the 2018 Writer's Center First Novel Prize and the 2018 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Literary Fiction, and was named one of the best debut novels of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly and one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, and BookPage.


"Kayla gave me some of the most thorough feedback I have received and a lot of concrete, practical tips for how to be a better writer. She was open and approachable, and provided a class environment where we could be sincere and comfortable enough to be honest about our approaches to and questions about writing."

former student

"Kayla is one of the most generous teachers I've ever worked with. She approached my work with such careful attention, providing the kind of deep and honest feedback that makes students not just better writers, but better people."

former student

“A wildly original novel that pulses with heart and truth . . . That this powerful exploration of friendship, desire, ambition, and secrets manages to be ebullient, gripping, heartbreaking, and deeply deeply funny is a testament to Kayla Rae Whitaker’s formidable gifts. I was so sorry to reach the final page. Sharon and Mel will stay with me for a very long time.”

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney author of THE NEST

“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written THE ANIMATORS.”

Emma Donoghue author of ROOM and THE WONDER

“THE ANIMATORS is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel about love and genius, the powerful obsessiveness of artistic creation, and the equally powerful undertow of the past. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes like her head is on fire."

Kate Christensen PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of THE GREAT MEN