You’ve written a personal essay, you’ve revised it, maybe even had a friend read it and give you feedback, but it’s still not quite up to snuff. You know it could be a great piece, but something isn’t quite clicking. Now what?
Revising is an absolutely essential part of the writing process, but sometimes it can be hard to see your own work with a critical eye—especially a piece you’ve already been working on for a while, one you’ve read so many times you can’t tell anymore whether it’s brilliant or awful. During this one-day course, we’ll experiment with different techniques to find a new way into your draft—seeing it with fresh eyes so you can cut away the excess, dig deeper into the richest ideas, and take a fresh approach to structure.
We’ll do a series of short exercises together to get the wheels turning, and then students will work through additional written exercises on their own time after class ends. Through this process, you’ll polish one essay, and learn techniques you can apply whenever you get stuck on future pieces as well. This course is designed for experienced writers who want help shaking things up a bit, as well as newer writers who feel daunted by the prospect of self-editing.
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.
- Revise and polish one essay that you’ve been struggling with
- Learn to identify the pulse of your essay and let it lead the way
- Become merciless in cutting unnecessary material
- Add new tricks to your arsenal that you can return to next time you’re stuck in revision
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should bring one essay-in-progress that they are prepared to work on during the intensive and set aside some time after the live meeting to continue the revision process.
Note: There will be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss specific challenges during the course meeting, but the instructor will not be providing feedback on individual drafts.
Lilly Dancyger is a contributing editor at Catapult, and assistant editor at Barrelhouse Books. She's the author of Negative Space, a reported and illustrated memoir selected by Carmen Maria Machado as one of the winners of the 2019 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards, forthcoming in 2021; and the editor of Burn it Down, a critically acclaimed anthology of essays on women's anger from Seal Press. Lilly's writing has been published by Longreads, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, Glamour, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and more. Find her on Twitter here.
“It demystified the writing process a little bit, and made it feel like writing is more tangible, and less abstract – something I could achieve. Ms. Dancyger gave great feedback. She was approachable, engaged, and encouraging.”
“Lilly Dancyger is an enthusiastic and passionate instructor. She was well organized and provided a rigorous program for us to follow. Her criticism was honest and constructive.”
“Lilly is a thoughtful, considerate editor who combines her developmental skills with skilled line editing for a holistic editorial approach that makes the story sharper and cleaner, the narrative more compelling, and the piece's purpose clear. Lilly knows what makes a story effective, and how to employ the writing techniques that will sharpen even the best and most vulnerable personal narratives. She's attentive to the writer's needs, and knows how to ask questions that will direct the writer toward the best story possible while retaining their own artistic voice. Lilly's editing helps take the personal essay from personal to universal. It's not often I feel like an editor isn't afraid to give it their all in editing a vulnerable topic, but also isn't hunting for just the most shock value and ‘universally appealing’ parts of a story, all while wanting the narrative to actually be strong, tight, compelling, and effective.”
“Ms. Dancyger understands the craft of the personal essay, how to weave narrative with theme, how to make the personal resonate. She draws the reader into the scene, evoking our senses and emotions.”
“Lilly Dancyger is a lovely, incisive writer attuned to the emotional core of a story and the evocative details that bring it out. She’s able to be expressive while smartly avoiding sentimentality, and she's well attuned to structure.”
“Lilly has an innate understanding of what makes a memoir piece pop, which is evident both in her own writing and in her work as an editor. She is uniquely skilled at helping writers pull out the most interesting angles of their own personal experiences and present them in a way that reels in the readers.”