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True-Crime 101

Welcome to True-Crime 101! This is a 4-week mentorship designed to help you explore your desire to write true-crime, allow you to hear from experts, and provide you with feedback on selections from your writing. We’ll meet for three hours each week via Zoom for group discussion, lectures, and workshopping. Mentees wishing to extend the workshopping of their writing for a more advanced experience may elect to do so for an additional two weeks.

The Schedule

Week 1—1st Half: The Dark Arts
We’ll explore your impulse for reading, watching, and writing true-crime. Most importantly, this initial session dives into ethics and morality in the true-crime genre. Writing about a true crime means writing about bad things that happened to real people. We’ll explore the responsibilities that come with that.

Week 1—2nd Half: Pick
Your Poison

What to write about, and why. We'll explore your obsessions, and find a
meaningful perspective for you to write from.

Week 2—1st Half: Follow
The Blood

How to research a case, obtain documents, and understand evidence. From a
research perspective, there are pros and cons to writing about a cold case vs. an active case, each
requiring slightly different strategies and protocols. We’ll formulate a game plan.

Week 2—2nd Half: Crime Scene
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. We’ll look at case documents from a
homicide scene, learning to read not only the official narrative of a scene but what’s left out.

Week 3—1st Half: Means, Motive, & Opportunity
Why and how did a particular crime happen? We’ll explore big-picture issues around criminality, and how to add meaningful layers to the true-crime narrative.

Week 3—2nd Half: Follow The Blood Redux
Researching your own connections, we’ll go deeper into why you were attracted to a particular crime, and we’ll explore ways to subtly incorporate those connections to invite a readership into your world.

Week 4—1st Half: Selling Out
The Dead

and how to avoid that! We focus on ethical promotion of your true-crime
writing. We’ll strategize taking part in the media frenzy,
 while standing apart.

Week 4—2nd Half: The Cost
of Living

AKA coping with exposure to the crimes, and with contact from readers. For better or worse, you are now associated with the case you wrote about. If you did a good job, you’ll find yourself with a wide audience, and many in that audience will reach out to you this year. And next year. And the year after that. Nearly all of them mean well, but the pressure of reliving the case can take a toll on your mental health—as it should. We’ll create a game plan for your success, and for what comes after.

*Throughout the mentorship, we’ll workshop snippets of your writing. This 4-week session will culminate in a thorough review of up to 50 pages of your true-crime piece.

Choose Your Night & Let's get started!

Tuesday Night

Meets Tuesday nights from 6-9 pm starting November 7th

Wednesday Night

Meets Wednesday nights from 6-9 pm starting November 8th

*Enrollment is limited to 7 students per class


4-week session, including group discussion, lectures, and workshopping
of your in-progress manuscript: $350

Additional 2-week workshopping available after completion
of the 4-week session: $175

Enrollment can be canceled by 12:00 pm on the Friday before your session
begins, with 25% of the fee non-refundable to cover losses from others having been bumped.

As J. Reuben Appelman is a fully-vetted, active private investigator, each mentee may also take advantage of four weeks of extremely discounted rates on all investigative database searches in assistance with your true-crime research. This offer of assistance applies after the completion of your 4-week session.

Mentees who elect to receive advanced, ongoing editorial feedback on their in-progress work will receive 2 additional, 3-hour intensive writing workshops conducted via Zoom with J. Reuben Appelman.

There are two evening sessions available. They are not interchangeable. i.e. the Tuesday evening group may not attend the Wednesday evening group, and vice versa. This policy is instituted to maintain the integrity of group dynamic.



True-crime writer J. Reuben Appelman

J. Reuben Appelman’s chronicle of the University of Idaho murders, While Idaho Slept, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in all formats on October 3, 2023. His true-crime crime memoir, The Kill Jar, was published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster (2018) and was among the first of the new true-crime memoir genre. Published in all formats, The Kill Jar inspired the popular Hulu
docuseries, “Children of the Snow” (2020), with Appelman serving as on-camera investigator and
Executive Producer. The TV Series based on Appelman’s book has streamed tens of millions of times in America and abroad, and The Kill Jar was noted as among the best true-crime books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Elle, Oxygen, Bustle, Crime Reads, and the USA Today network of newspapers, and “Children of the Snow” continues to stream internationally. The Kill  Jar continues to sell in bookstores and online, and Appelman continues to be a guest speaker on many true-crime podcasts. The list of his appearances is extensive.


J. Reuben Appelman has taught all manner of writing workshops at the college level. He was a long-time creative writing and composition instructor at Boise State University (2002-2013), was a Visiting Assistant Professor of writing across disciplines at Idaho State University, and is frequently hosted as a guest lecturer on the creative process. He has workshopped the writing of well-over 1,000 students across all demographics, and frequently acts as an editorial consultant on book-length manuscripts.

Kirkus Reviews of While Idaho Slept

“Riveting reenactments, intimate human-interest profiles, and urgent prose combine to create a tale of horrific butchery and a must-have exposé for readers following the still-ongoing developments.”

“A chilling, balanced, meticulously reported true-crime story.”
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