This entry-level class is for anyone who wants to write for magazines, work for a magazine, or start their own publication. Even if you aren’t hoping to work for a magazine, if you are pitching your work, learning more about how a magazine functions will give you a better understanding of the publishing process.
The first day will be an overview. We'll begin by looking at mastheads—the list of job titles you can usually find on the "about" page of a website—and learning what each role entails. Then we'll walk through each step in the process: assigning stories, editing, fact-checking, art direction, design, and production.
We'll discuss all this with an eye to both the practical (nerdy!) details—including style guides, production software, scheduling, and layouts—and the bigger picture. How do literary magazines and cultural criticism fit into larger societal conversations? What makes a publication exciting and relevant? And can you actually make a living editing and writing? The homework will be to come up with two writing pitches; the take-home reading will be optional but strongly recommended to help prepare you for the discussion on day two.
In the second class, we'll be looking at writing and editing in more depth. From the writing side, we'll discuss the pitching process, and, for those just starting out, how to approach writing a piece "on spec." We'll look at examples of successful pitches and learn how to find subjects that help define your voice as a writer. I'll share advice from my own experience as well as what other working writers and editors have told me. From the editing side, we will learn how to find and pitch writers and what to do when you get a first draft. Lastly, we'll put it all together by using the skills of an editor to become a better writer, and the skills of a writer to become a better editor.
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.
- How to craft a writing pitch
- A working knowledge of the day-to-day operations of a magazine
- A working knowledge of what it takes to conceive of, commission, edit, and produce a magazine
- Fundamental editing skills and a step-by-step approach to working with writers
- A better understanding of how to revise in response to editor feedback and how to develop your voice
- An understanding of the difference between fact-checking, copy editing, developmental editing, and line-editing, with real-world examples
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should be prepared to write two nonfiction pitches; reading list optional but strongly recommended for class discussion. There will be no feedback from the instructor given during this class.
David O'Neill is a writer and editor in New York City. He's an editor of Bookforum, where he's worked since 2009. His writing has appeared in Artforum, Affidavit, Bookforum, 4 Columns, the Times Literary Supplement, the Paris Review Daily, and other publications. In 2018, he co-edited Weight of the Earth: The Tape Journals of David Wojnarowicz, published by Semiotext(e).
"Dave cut his teeth in the unfeted trenches of short-form reviewing and it shows in all his writing—every word counts. But distilled prose doesn’t have to be dense. In his work, rascally asides, sleights of hand, and subtle provocations put pressure on the form (any form). He’s the best."
"David O'Neill is a dream for an editor—and a reader. An exquisite thinker with a sharp eye, he writes with great generosity to produce truly gorgeous prose. Working with him is always a delight, made even more interesting by the fact that he's also a terrific editor, which means I learn a valuable thing or two every time I edit him. I can't recommend David highly enough. He's simply one of the best around."
"Dave has been my editor at BOOKFORUM since 2014. We’ve published fourteen pieces together, including essays and reviews. The writing I’ve done with Dave is the writing I’m most proud of. He expanded my sense of the topics I could cover, made my arguments more graceful, and refined my voice on the page. Respectful without being passive, he always asks the questions I haven’t thought of. It’s fun to work with Dave. I wish there were more editors like him."
"Dave is one of my favorite editors to work with—he's knowledgeable, patient, funny, creative, and excited about the possibilities of what a magazine and cultural criticism can do. (But not annoyingly excited—crucially, he's very low-key.) His light touch does not prevent him from pointing out horrific, glaring problems. I've never once felt wronged or that my pieces had irrevocably changed for the worse while working with him, and that is extremely rare."
"Dave is a kind, clear editor who treats my writing with respect and care. He works fast, and is nice when I don't. I'm always happier with a piece after he's had a hand in it."