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Build Engrossing and (Mostly) True Historical Worlds with Your Fiction

Michael Zapata
CHICAGO, IL—History may be written by the “winners,” but as fiction writers, that winning narrative is only one of many threads we need to follow when we’re building historical worlds. We may even find that “truth” gets a bit more slippery the more we pull.

If you write historical fiction, or plan to, the next online class from the North Carolina Writers’ Network is absolutely a “must-see.” Because creating believable historical characters who move naturally through their world—a world we’ve never lived in ourselves—can be a challenge for even the most seasoned pros. And unlike, say, speculative fiction, you can’t just make it up. Or can you?

On Tuesday, December 7, at 7:00 pm EST, critically acclaimed author Michael Zapata will lead the online class “At the Beginning of the World: Writing Historical Fiction.”

Registration is closed.

“I want to send history to the bright fires.”
–William T. Vollmann, You Bright and Risen Angels

Let’s face it! History is tricky, often illusory, filled with inaccuracies and inequities, set aflame by some, denied to so many others. Still, it’s a record of who we are and offers clues to where we’re going. So then how exactly do you write historical fiction? How do you dream up and then build a past world? How do you fill that world with a story that may or may not have happened?

In this online fiction class, Michael Zapata (The Lost Book of Adana Moreau) will guide writers through what it means to navigate and write historical fiction. We’ll discuss research practices (how much is enough?), worldbuilding, fact vs. fiction, and realist vs. experimental approaches. The class will include short readings excerpted from historical novels and an opportunity for a Q&A as well!

The cost for the class is $35 for NCWN members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited.

Michael Zapata is a founding editor of MAKE Literary Magazine and the author of the novel The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, winner of the 2020 Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction, finalist for the 2020 Heartland Booksellers Award in Fiction, and a Best Book of the Year for NPR, the A.V. Club, Los Angeles Public Library, and BookPage, among others. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction and the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program Award. He is on the core faculty of StoryStudio Chicago and the MFA faculty of Northwestern University. As a public-school educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing drop-out students. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.

“The Network offered online classes long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ll continue to do so moving forward,” said NCWN communications director Charles Fiore. “While nothing can replace the energy of an in-person event, online classes can still be inspirational. More importantly, they offer a way to connect with writers across the state and beyond while staying safe.”

The online class “At the Beginning of the World: Writing Historical Fiction” is available to anyone with an internet connection, or who even owns just a telephone. Instructions for accessing the online class on Tuesday, December 7, will be sent to registrants no less than 24 hours prior to the start of class. The class will be archived and made available to registrants for repeated viewings.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit