Online: On-Demand

Encountering the Past: Researching and Writing Historical Fiction

4 weeks online; No live meetings. Class opens July 6th.
Online: On Demand
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Level: Intermediate
Adult (18+)
12 seats max
Only 2 spots left!

From classics like War and Peace all the way up to contemporary masterpieces like The Underground Railroad and the Wolf Hall trilogy, novels have long invoked the past to create powerful stories. However, there’s no denying that historical fiction writers face a slew of unique challenges. How much is historical accuracy to be protected at the expense of the story? How do you transform the glut of historical detail into memorable characters? And how do you approach the past with the values of the twenty-first century? Through a combination of craft lecture, discussion, readings, exercises, and short workshops this seminar will explore strategies for investigating the past, then bringing it to life with your fiction.

Each week, we will explore a new aspect of historical fiction, such as blending fact with fiction, conducting research, and turning that research into compelling scenes. For models, we’ll read and discuss craft essays and fiction by writers such as Philip Gerard, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Laila Lalami. Finally, we’ll engage in weekly writing exercise to help you apply these ideas and inspirations to our work. You will have the opportunity to workshop one full scene with the class.

You will come away from the class with a clear sense of how to approach your novel’s relationship to the past, a plan for how to research it, several freshly written pages of fiction, and feedback on an 6-8 page scene.

Suitable for any level writer, these techniques will be helpful both in literary and commercial projects. In particular, this seminar may appeal to students recently enrolled in “Novel in Progress,” who wish to gain insight specific to historical fiction.

Class Format

This is an Online: On-Demand class that will take place on our asynchronous online learning platform, Wet.Ink. Weekly lessons and assignments open each Wednesday. Students will receive an invitation to Wet Ink before 5pm on the first day of class!

*NOTE that while our handy dandy "Schedule" tab states a 6-7pm class time, there are actually no live meetings for this class! Weekly lessons and assignments open each Wednesday. Students will receive an invitation to Wet Ink, our online class platform, before 5pm on the first day of class.


Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

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Cam Terwilliger
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
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  • Generate New Work
  • Craft Lessons
  • Class Discussion
  • Writing Homework


  • The Novel

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