Online | Comedy | Nonfiction | Seminar

1-Day Nonfiction Lecture: How to Write a Tragicomic Memoir

Writing a book about yourself is a thrilling, empowering, ideal experience; it’s also horrifying, humbling, and impossible. I began the shitty first draft of my memoir Hysterical in 2010—12 years before you could buy it (please buy it for all your friends/exes). In this life-changing seminar, we’ll talk about me and how I wrote like a motherfucker. More specifically we’re going to talk about how on earth to write a tragicomic memoir, from recyclable early drafts to book proposal to revised book proposal to published book to best seller (you/I wish).

What goes into writing a full-length book about yourself? How does a memoir transcend the self? How can a book make you laugh while RIPPING YOU APART? We’ll use my perfect book as an example.

I’ll give you my insights, secrets, and most embarrassing moments about writing the book I couldn’t write. I’ll show you my notebooks and my pens, along with feedback and rejections I received. I’ll discuss my computer software, internet blocker apps, and mirror pep-talks. I’ll gossip about my research process and my revision process. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of panic attacks. And we’ll brainstorm: What stories from your life won’t leave you alone? What are you OBSESSED with? What do you most care about, and how can you make us care about it? (Answering these questions will also sustain you during the “I quit” episodes of a years’ long creative/emotional/spiritual/therapeutic/triggering “journey.”)

Mainly we’ll focus on how to apply what I did to what you can do, wherever you are in your work. I’ll also tell you how to calculate the exact amount of time it will take you to write one (1) book.

Then we’ll finish with a bang, an AMA where you can ask me anything about writing, publishing, and my personal life.

A copy of Hysterical by Elissa Bassist is included in the purchase of this class for participants living in the United States. After purchasing the class, you’ll receive a coupon code to use on for the book. Shipping cost is not included and will need to be paid at checkout on

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- How to find and form a clear, unique angle to hook editors and readers

- How you can make your life story interesting and entertaining to readers

- Ways to point your gaze upward from navel

- How you can trick a total stranger into spending $15-$30 on your book about yourself

- Handouts on what every tragicomic memoir needs and on how to kill your darlings and on how to balance tragedy and comedy

- A reality check on expectations

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students are extremely required (not really) to read Hysterical by Elissa Bassist before, during, and after class. Please come prepared with compliments (all criticism will be rejected) and to ask questions and engage in the Zoom comments.

Also: we’ll brainstorm during class (and take notes!), and you’ll receive an optional homework assignment (to fill out a worksheet with your thesis, takeaway, and more) to complete after the class.


Hello and lecture on how, exactly, to write a tragicomic memoir (lessons on time & space, research, feedback, self-critique, rejection, rejection, and rejection using Hysterical as an example and bible); brainstorming exercises; AMA 

Elissa Bassist

Elissa Bassist is the editor of the column “Funny Women” on The Rumpus and the author of Hysterical, a tragicomic memoir published by Hachette. Her writing appears in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Creative Nonfiction, and more, including the best-seller Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, ed. by Roxane Gay. She teaches writing nationally and is probably her therapist's favorite.


“This class taught me so much about humor and also probably made me a better person (for learning how to see the humor in people). Before Elissa’s class I didn't really understand the value of spending time and energy on writing genres that aren't your primary interest. In her class I learned about using humor to write about sad stuff, which I'd never attempted before."

former student

“Had a lot of fun with the class, and for the first time, I feel like I can write funny things (though I've always believed I'm extremely funny, and my friends think so too). Elissa’s enthusiasm and laughter are infectious, would definitely take a class with her again.”

former student

"I have recommended this class to SO MANY PEOPLE. Elissa is an amazing teacher. She creates such an awesome environment where everyone generally wants to improve AND she can explain to you what isn't working without hurting your ego in the slightest. If it weren't weird, I'd take this class ten more times. "

former student

“Elissa is too good for most anybody.”

Bill Murray hijacking her Tinder

"Elissa was extremely knowledgeable, supportive, and funny! I walked away with a stronger grasp of humor writing structure and technique. And thanks to Elissa’s supportive teaching style, I feel more confident as a writer and more comfortable expressing my voice. Elissa also imparted her knowledge of the creative writing process and shared her tools and techniques for generating ideas and tackling first drafts and revisions. These are practices that I’ll continue using after the class."

former student

"Elissa is one of the most supportive and kindest teachers I've had, all while still delivering EXCELLENT critiques. She is a treasure!"

former student