Online | Nonfiction | Seminar

1-Day Nonfiction Seminar: Writing Essays That Move Conversations

Writers write because they want to move conversations, but in approaching urgent or meaningful topics, or after spending too much time wading in the discourse online, it can be easy to spin your wheels in the brainstorming process. Many writers wonder if they have anything new to say.

And yet, a thoughtful and timely review, analysis, reported piece, or braided essay can highlight cracks in everyday conversations, or open new avenues for how we talk about pressing cultural and political issues. In this one-day intensive for nonfiction writers of all levels, through lecture, discussion, research activities, and writing exercises, writers will learn how to take an idea and turn it into an essay that does more than rehash tired old debates.

Please note that this class will focus more on the craft of ideas than on the craft of writing on the formal or sentence- level. This class is best suited for nonfiction writers interested in writing criticism or personal essays with some researched component for a general audience.

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.

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


- Acquire tools to research big topics and cultural conversations

- Practice moving from idea to essay, by breaking the process down into concrete steps

- Find a better understanding of voice, genre, and your unique platform as a writer

- Leave with an outline for one nonfiction essay and a pitch

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Writers should come to class with a topic or idea for a piece. Writers will be expected to complete a series of scaffolded research activities, discussions, and writing exercises during the 3-hour session to move from idea to essay during the class session.


Hour one:

- Introductions

- Lecture & discussion about moving from idea to conversation

- Research and share cultural conversations

Hour two:

- Discuss intervention points; look at sample essays

- Find your intervention point; writing exercises

- Share intervention points and outlines in small groups

Hour three:

- Revision time

- Pitch writing

- Final questions

Amanda Montei

Amanda Montei is the author of Touched Out: Motherhood, Misogyny, Consent, and Control, forthcoming from Beacon in 2023, as well as Two Memoirs (Jaded Ibis Press) and The Failure Age (Bloof Books). She holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a PhD from the Poetics Program at SUNY Buffalo. Her poetry, fiction, essays, and criticism have appeared in Slate, The Believer, Vox, HuffPost, Rumpus, Salon, Ms. Magazine, as well as numerous literary journals and scholarly publications. She has been teaching for over a decade at the college level and in community arts programs. For three years, she was editor of the literary journal P-QUEUE, and she previously co-edited the small press project Bon Aire Projects. Amanda lives in California with her partner and two children.

Author photo courtesy of the author.


"Amanda Montei deftly evokes the splendors and miseries of her childhood in LA, a fabulous country of the mind, a land unlike any other. The riches to rags narrative she offers breaks your heart at a hundred intersections; it is a story populated by the demonic energies of family and school life, polished and broken into shards of crystal… With relentless subconscious force Montei’s genealogy slams against her personal life story, creating a stunning reverb effect.”


“In this deft, funny, sad, and strong memoir, Amanda Montei shows a remarkable skill for zooming in on the hilarious, unbearable, sometimes heartbreaking detail (watch for the polyps!), then panning out to give a memorable portrait of a time and place (Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, with all its deceptive, and sometimes real, glamour). It’s as much discovery narrative as recovery narrative, as its author explores the deep mysteries of both mothers and memory with a wry and steady hand.”

Maggie Nelson author of BLUETS, THE ARGONAUTS and THE RED PARTS

"Amanda's course was nurturing, generative, inspiring, and just such a powerful 4 weeks. No one wanted the session to end which speaks to her ability to not only create a compelling course but also encourage healthy discussion and vulnerability. "

Cindy DiTiberio writer; Publisher, Literary Mama

"This course buoyed me and made me feel connected to other writers at a time when I was feeling very disconnected from the writing world. I was blown away by the diversity and depth of readings, the spirit of support and camaraderie, and the quality of both submissions and feedback from fellow participants. Amanda led the course with such insight, compassion, and intelligence—I also thoroughly enjoyed the prompts… as well as the discussions and ways in which we were all inspired to engage with the reading material, and each other's work, on a weekly basis. I will miss it!"

Kaitlin Solimine author EMPIRE OF GLASS

"It was a galvanizing and inspiring and safe place to be and listen and create."

October Moore actor and writer

"This class nurtured, inspired, and challenged me."

Eleanor Burke former student

"[Amanda’s] course materials and writing prompts were impeccably curated and thoughtful, and she created an honest and supportive "classroom" space on Zoom. I am grateful for the community I found through this course!"

Ariella Ruth former student

"Amanda held a space that was simultaneously gentle and intellectually compelling, her feedback was prompt and through and the writing portals were well thought out and generative. I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity."

Kristy Rose former student

"Amanda is a great teacher who gives fantastic feedback and knows how to steer writers in productive directions."

Heather Hewett PhD, co-editor of #ME TOO AND LITERARY STUDIES

"This course was fascinating and encouraged me to reflect deeply on a wide range of creative and intellectual topics. It shifted my thinking on certain issues, allowed me to connect with other writers, and helped me carve out space for magic and creativity. Amanda did a great job of making space for each student to contribute. She structured the class while still allowing for spontaneity."

Victoria Livingstone PhD, writer and translator

"The community created in the class was invaluable in furthering a sense of how collective the act of writing can be."

Mahru Elahi former student

"It was a deeply thought-provoking class, with a superbly wide range of reading materials and writing prompts. The feedback on my piece was particularly helpful in highlighting substantive points [and] I was blown away by the quality of peers' feedback, care and dedication to each others' writing."

Nicky Torode former student

"Amanda provided thoughtful and creative writing prompts that were truly inspired by the readings, in a surprising but inevitable way. They unlocked my thinking and brought new energy to my own creative work. Amanda's welcoming, gentle, and listening energy created a nice sense of community even over Zoom. I learned a lot, had fun, and felt a sense of connection not just to the subject material but to the group."

Stella former student

"Amanda's workshop is excellent. She does a great job creating respect, trust, and openness among the participants. "

Holly Spinelli former student

"Amanda is an engaging and thoughtful teacher. She offers excellent insight and targeted feedback. I gained a wealth of information!"

Natalie S former student

“Amanda's course was both informative and inspiring. From the first class, she created a supportive environment that allowed for open and honest conversation. I especially appreciated how much thought and time she devoted to our individual writing goals and essays. I'd recommend this class to writers at any level and would even take it again myself.”

Kate Warrington former student