Whether you have a manuscript or just the bones of one, this workshop encourages students to shape, write, and polish their memoirs, with the aim of building to a better, ever more perfected draft.
Ever had that frustrating workshop experience wherein you share a section of a larger work and spend the majority of your feedback window fielding questions about what comes earlier or after, and whether certain aspects of your story might be mentioned or developed elsewhere? Ever wish for more targeted feedback in the context of your project as a whole? Ever want the opportunity to discuss the full scope of your work with other writers?
This workshop will create a rigorous, but encouraging environment for you to perfect your prose, but also to think through every aspect of your memoir with your writing peers. This class will be particularly useful to writers working through hybrid or researched projects and braided narratives. Together, we will hone our answers to the biggest question: "what is this book really about?"
Over the course of twelve weeks, you will generate and revise material, all the while completing an intensive structural assessment (or re-assessment) of your book.
In the first couple of weeks, we will get to know each other's projects, road-testing our elevator pitches, and sharing a "deep think" (or re-think) outline of our projects, with particular attention to larger themes and arcs. We'll spend the next several weeks with each student workshopping at least three shorter excerpts of their book and refining their pages, but we will do so grounded with a firm grasp on the project as a whole. The final weeks will provide an opportunity to revisit our more global conception of our projects, having made significant progress in our understanding of (how to sell) the book.
Expect a vigorous discussion of structure, arc, and theme; help with constructing chapter outlines; guidance for generating new material; and weekly workshopping. After three months, you’ll walk away with either a completed draft—or, at very least, the road map to arrive at one. And better yet, a deeper sense of what the story you are telling has to say.
*No class on November 24th
To apply to this course, writers should submit up to 20 double-spaced pages of their manuscript-in-progress or other writing that deals with related themes.
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 opportunity to do a comprehensive "deep think" of your book—in structure, subject, theme, and arc—then translate that into well-crafted and coherent pages.
- A talented, passionate (and committed) cohort of fellow memoirists with a deep sense of your project as a whole.
- At least three opportunities to workshop chapters, in context, as well as two separate workshop opportunities to more explicitly discuss the bigger picture.
- A 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to write each week, regardless of whether they are workshopping, and to complete at least one comprehensive outline of your project as a whole, in addition to at least three submissions of prose (up to 5,000 words each). You will be asked to read each other's work carefully and contribute thoughtfully to the workshop each week, and, occasionally, to read a short excerpt or essay for discussion.
Part 1: The What (Weeks 1-3)
In these first few weeks, we will create an environment of mutual trust and devote significant class time to delving into the greater structure of our manuscripts. We will begin by sharing our elevator pitches, followed by an intensive workshop and discussion of our imagined outlines for the work. What are the major themes in your book? Where do they first come up? Where do they come to crisis? Where, if anywhere, do they resolve? What are the (few or many) arcs at play, and how are they shaped? How do they fit together? At the end of this phase, each student will have a solid understanding of their fellow students' projects, and will therefore be better poised to give (and receive) the kind of feedback they need most.
Part 2: The How (Weeks 4-9)
Once we're all grounded in what the story *is*, we'll focus on how best to tell it. And the generation of material—and how to make the writing process more of a habit, rather than a homework assignment. We will open class with discussion of the occasional short reading for inspiration in craft, and then proceed to workshopping. Every student will have the opportunity to workshop three times during this period. Submissions can be up to 5,000 words. At the end of this phase, students will hopefully find themselves deep in the groove with their manuscripts, with a significant number of pages complete.
Part 3: The Whole (Weeks 10-12)
As we conclude our work together, we will take a break from workshopping our prose to spend at least one class period checking in to gauge how our projects as a whole both have and haven't changed over the course of our work together. Giving every writer the opportunity to revisit their outlines, and have one last deep think while still in the workshop setting, with all the support and accountability that entails. We will spend the final class talking through aspects of marketing our projects, everything from comp titles and agent queries to thinking through how best to situate our books in a challenging marketplace. We'll part ways fortified, with a clear idea of what comes next, whether writing, revising, or selling our memoirs.
Meghan Flaherty is the author of TANGO LESSONS. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University in literary nonfiction. Her essays and translations have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Iowa Review, Psychology Today, Parents, and online at the New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “Ode to Gray” was included among the honorable mentions in 2019’s Best American Essays. She is the mother of two small boys.
“Well-researched, eloquent, and entertaining, Flaherty's book is not only a witty, incisive reflection on a beloved dance and its history. It is also an intimate celebration of dance, life, and the art of taking chances. A vibrantly intelligent reading pleasure.”
"A dazzlingly honest, unblinking memoir, it is also deliciously written, authentically romantic and enormous fun to read."
"From the first page, TANGO LESSONS engages, charms and inspires. Like the best memoirs, it tells a story of self-discovery that transcends the personal. In sensuous prose, Meghan Flaherty brings to captivating life her journey to recovery from trauma and heartbreak through the tango scene in New York City."
"I can attest to how invaluable it is to work with Meghan: she is rigorous and perceptive, superbly encouraging and supportive. I've experienced firsthand the sharpness, grace, and clarity of her feedback. Our students often spoke of Meghan's wit, warmth, and how much they learned from her."
"I can only imagine the work and attention that must have gone into making [your class] as rich as it was. It was such a gift. Your generosity and brilliance will stay with me."