Online | Nonfiction | Seminar

1-Day Nonfiction Seminar: Writing Family Stories

In this generative seminar, writers will learn strategies for writing nonfiction stories on family: research and reporting, ideation, pacing, narration, organization, voice and tone, and creating an ensemble of "characters" who are specific to our origin stories but recognizable to any reader. We’ll break down family memoirs into the who, where, and when, making the unwieldy task of writing about those we know more manageable.

This two-hour course, perfect for writers with all levels of experience, will include three in-class prompts that build on each other, a PDF handout with text and illustrations, and a short listening exercise and reading from the instructor and author of Monsoon Mansion, a family memoir on love, loss, and survival, described by Susan Tekulve as "a woven family tale that is both delicate and electric."

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.  


- A deeper understanding of how to effectively write about family

- Prompts, exercises, and handouts students can use to generate new essays or longform projects

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students in this class will not submit their writing for feedback from the instructor or their classmates. The reading assignment is optional. Students should use pen and paper/notebook for the three in-class exercises, and must be able to view a shared slide presentation for the duration of the class. All class exercises can be taken home as templates for future brainstorms, writing, editing, etc.

Cinelle Barnes

Cinelle is a formerly undocumented memoirist, essayist & educator from the Philippines, and is the author of MONSOON MANSION: A MEMOIR and MALAYA: ESSAYS ON FREEDOM, and the editor of the New York Times New & Noteworthy book A MEASURE OF BELONGING: 21 WRITERS OF COLOR ON THE NEW AMERICAN SOUTH. She has an MFA from Converse College. Her writing has appeared or been featured in the NYT, Longreads, Electric Literature, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, Hyphen & CNN Philippines, among others. Her work is anthologized in A MAP IS ONLY ONE STORY. She’s a contributing editor, instructor & writer at Catapult.


"The instructor provided a wealth of information, not only about content around the topical area but also about the process. Her incorporation of her own writings in the workshop was powerful and greatly enhanced the class. I bought her book MONSOON MANSION immediately afterward!"

former student

"Cinelle deals with extraordinarily difficult material with a very sensitive audience and is mindful while remaining instructive and sharing her story and experience - nice job!"

former student

"Well organized, though-provoking, thorough. Explained boundaries and strategies AND modeled them. Clear, relevant, humane. Excellent teaching of a sensitive topic. WOW!"

former student

"Cinelle, your feedback is incredible. Thank you! Your notes resonated with me and I am so grateful!"

nonfiction author responding to feedback on nonfiction MS

"Cinelle Barnes has compiled the most diverse portrayal of the contemporary South I've read to date. These beautifully-written, clear-eyed essays present the American South through the eyes of its Black and brown voices and expand the reader's view of belonging to or hailing from the region. I love this collection and its depictions complicate the South in ways that mainstream America sometimes refuses to believe about our ugly/beautiful South. A MEASURE OF BELONGING is a major contribution to the canon of Southern literature and each of the writers give of themselves fully. It is a book for our times. Welcome to the 21st century!"

Crystal Wilkinson author of THE BIRDS OF OPULENCE

“I write because I am the last to remember,’ Cinelle Barnes tells us in her essay ‘Why I Write Memoir.’ MALAYA is a sensitive, vibrant book that will help so many of us remember and reflect on the stories we shouldn’t forget. Barnes’s deft writing crosses gaps in time, understanding, and experience, illuminating important truths about our country and culture while also allowing us to bear witness to her own fight for healing, justice, and belonging. MALAYA is a book we need, and Cinelle Barnes is a writer to treasure.”

Nicole Chung author of ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW

"Reminiscent of both Jeanette Walls’s memoir, THE GLASS CASTLE (2005), and Sandra Cisneros’s seminal novel THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET (1984), [MONSOON MANSION] is a story of a tragic childhood told in a remarkably uplifting voice. Barnes imbues scenes from her interrupted childhood with an artistic touch that reads like literary fiction. Luminescent and shattering, Barnes’s first book is a triumph: a conquering of the past through the power of the written word.”

Booklist starred review