Online | Nonfiction | Intensive

1-Day Nonfiction Intensive: When is an Essay Ready to Submit?

We hear a lot about the challenges of starting a piece of writing, but what about the business of wrapping it up? We worry about sending out an essay prematurely, but we also worry about overworking a piece until we’ve zapped it of all originality and spark. We know that no single essay can contain the universe, but we fear omitting something important. Where’s the balance and how can we recognize it before we click Submit? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but we can build an awareness of what completion looks like when we see it—keeping in mind that an essay is never finished until the writer and editor collaborate on the final draft.

Since every writer is different, any signposts along the path to completion involves a writer’s own processes. Students will perform a self-analysis of their habits around drafting, revising, and seeking feedback, with a focus on the different phases of expansion and contraction in the life of an essay. We will then discuss several published essays by writers including Alexander Chee, Camille T. Dungy, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Brandon Taylor, Carmen Maria Machado, Roxane Gay, and Matthew Salesses to see how the scope is defined, how central ideas resonate, and how evidence of a mind at work creates interconnectedness.

Students will brainstorm ways to confidently wrap up their own nearly completed essays using techniques learned in class. We’ll end the course with a set of finishing touches that participants can make part of their routines, as well as tips on how to let go when the time is right.


-Writers at all stages of their careers—with or without publication history—are welcome to attend.

-Students can discuss specific challenges related to their essays but the instructor will not provide feedback on individual drafts.

-An ASL interpreter will be available upon request.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- Develop an awareness of your drafting and revision practices, with a view to spotting completion as you approach it.

- Learn to identify and achieve different levels of interconnectedness in an essay.

- Put the finishing touches on a nearly completed essay.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Before class, students will receive an assignment related to their personal drafting and revision process and will be expected to read at least two of essays from the reading list. Students should also bring an essay-in-progress to class and be prepared to discuss.

Daniel Allen Cox

Daniel Allen Cox's (he/him/his) essays have appeared in Maisonneuve, The Florida Review, Catapult, Literary Hub, TriQuarterly, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, The Malahat Review, Fourth Genre, and elsewhere. His essay "The Glow of Electrum"  was named Notable in Best American Essays 2021 and was a finalist for a 2021 Canadian National Magazine Award in Personal Journalism. 

Daniel is the author of four novels and I FELT THE END BEFORE IT CAME, a memoir-in-essays coming out on Penguin Canada in spring 2023. Daniel is a past mentor in both the AWP Writer to Writer and Quebec Writers’ Federation mentorship programs.


“Cox employs terse, effective prose to reveal the consciousness of his characters and the time in which they live. His ability to create an entire world view and a sense of place—in a few pages—is exceptional.”


“Art both tells and transforms life. And it is through the juxtaposition of evocative, surprising language with intellectual awareness and the sharing of open consciousness that this process is conveyed with soul as long as the form emerges from the emotional center of the work. Daniel finds these connections and innovations within himself, partially through commitment, partially through instinct. It's that thing we call talent.”


“Daniel Allen Cox mentored me on a fiction manuscript for which I received a grant. He is a gifted and discerning writer who knows what makes a story compelling, and how to translate it carefully and cleverly into writing by engaging the writer with techniques that will manifest an authentic voice with its own natural rhythm, style and structure. Daniel understood me and my personal narrative needs. He is a highly perceptive teacher.”

Sami Basbous multi-disciplinary artist, author of L'ANGE À QUI L'HOMME APPARUT and HEAL THE BOY

“When I started my mentorship with Daniel, I had an essay that I'd been submitting but didn't really know what it was missing. His unfailing belief in my potential was incredibly encouraging, and a month later, I had a new draft that finally cracked the code and received my first acceptance. Daniel's depth of knowledge about creative nonfiction and literary publishing has transformed my writing life. He's able to come up with a reading list and curriculum adapted to each situation. We've had deeper discussions about navigating stories that involve other people, but he's also perfectly willing to talk about the nitty gritty world of pitches and cover letters. Any feedback Daniel gives me is insightful, whether it’s on the level of word choice or a suggested restructuring of the piece. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to work with Daniel, take it.”

former student