If you want to write a memoir that will engage readers and increase your likelihood of getting published, you’ll need more than a great story to tell. Well-crafted work requires a disciplined approach, from concept and drafting to the painstaking and rewarding tasks of revising—and then revising again. And how do you get your memoir to be the best it can be? How do you know it's ready for the world? In this ten-week master class for writers in the draft stages of a memoir-writing process—from the first couple of chapters to finished draft—we will dissect craft and excavate the truth, elevate and move beyond the "me" in memoir.
Writers will graduate this class with most of a first full draft as well as the necessary tools to revise their memoir into its clearest and most powerful form. Through group discussion of students' work, plus that of published authors, writers in this workshop will examine the art and craft of creative nonfiction. The focus will be on learning to understand and use a full range of literary techniques in order to tell a truly compelling story. We'll break down what can be an overwhelming process into clear, manageable steps toward a complete manuscript. Writers will also spend time talking about the writer's journey, support, and community. To ensure that every student gets focused and rigorous attention on their work, this class is limited to eight writers.
The class atmosphere will be one of openness, community, and collaboration. While you do not need a full draft to apply, writers should have at least 50-100 pages of a work-in-progress and should be prepared to complete an outline of their project for the first class. We will be taking a look at outlines on the first day.
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.
- Detailed feedback and editorial notes on two workshop submissions
- A deeper understanding of your beyond the "Me" in Memoir
- A greater sense of your unique strengths, as well as weaknesses
- A strong grasp of literary techniques such as frame, structure, compression, exposition, and dialogue
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Students will be expected to read each others' work, participate in discussions, complete short in-class writing exercises, as well as submit their own work to a deadline
- Each student will have the chance to workshop twice, and over the 8 weeks, we will read approximately 50-100 pages of each student's work. Writers should be prepared to give thorough feedback on each other’s work in the form of a typed letter of approximately one page. Line edits are not mandatory but encouraged.
- The instructor will also help the writer set a plan in place for the work ahead, as well as to answer more practical querying/publishing concerns.
Week 1: Introductions and course overview; Outline due.
Week 2: Frame vs structure; workshop #1
Week 3: Beyond the “me” in memoir; workshop #2
Week 4: Show vs Tell; Good and bad Exposition; workshop #3
Week 5: Art of Compression; workshop #4
Week 6: Action Writing; workshop #5
Week 7: workshop #6
Week 8: workshop #7
Week 9: Endings; workshop #8
Week 10: Editing and Q&A
Anna Qu is a Chinese American writer living in Brooklyn. She writes personal essays about identity and growing up in New York as an immigrant. Her work has appeared in the Threepenny Review, Lumina, Kartika, Kweli, Vol.1 Brooklyn, among others. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her debut memoir, Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor, is forthcoming August 3rd, 2021.
“Anna provided an insightful and inviting workshop experience; one in which I was excited to sign up for another right away which I did. I found the lessons to be a great introduction to the craft. Most of all, I feel more excited and better equipped to go on and continue my writing.”
“Anna was a wonderful teacher and I really enjoyed her class. She gave generous and thoughtful feedback on my writing and I appreciated the way she taught the elements of craft so that I could easily recognize and use them in the pieces I was reading and writing throughout the course. She also guided the class discussions with the utmost care and attention, creating a welcoming and fertile space for ideas. And thanks to her balanced approach, I had plenty of room to discover on my own while feeling supported by her expertise and insights. My class with Anna was exactly what I needed to reconnect with my love for writing and begin writing again after a long hiatus.”
"Anna Qu has written a thoroughly engrossing and nuanced memoir about triumph over trauma and the meaning of home. Made in China brings the immigrant experience to life and makes you root for Anna. A must read."
"Made in China is an important story told with intelligence and heart, and a study of discipline as a form of devotion—devotion to a mother, to a legacy, to our own dreams and to those of others, to being good. So much of American rhetoric is about what we are owed. This graceful memoir is about the much trickier problem of what we deserve. Which is, in the end, brightest love."
"Made in China is a sympathetic, brave portrayal of the confusions, difficulties, and hurts that come with growing up between worlds. Anna Qu's writing about her journey as an immigrant deftly shows how our origins—of economic status, of country—have lasting effects on the ways we approach family, work, and self. I was captivated and moved by her story."
"Anna masterfully evokes her childhood with a power and grace that speak of an experience that no one should ever have to endure. This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by everyone."