Personal stories can be intimidating. They can live so large in our minds and hearts, and the idea of writing them, especially now, can feel overwhelming. This class is intended to help you tell your personal story by going small, and focusing on the elements of the everyday.
As such we’ll search everywhere but our bookshelves for the building blocks of essays and memoirs. We’ll pick apart podcasts, graphic novels, YouTube essays, and even tweet threads by people like Julia Wertz, Damon Young, Titi Nguyen, John Green, and many others that tell small, personal stories with big emotion, then compare them with the literary prose memoirs and essays we love. The point? To discover that the tools to tell a deep, meaningful personal story can be anywhere—even in the routines of your day-to-day life.
While this course is not a traditional workshop, students will end it by incorporating what we’ve learned into a short piece of original, personal prose inspired by the work we discuss, then sharing the results. In addition, we’ll take a look at the fascinating landscape for stories driven by the everyday, including where you might even pitch your own.
This class is for seasoned nonfiction writers, people new to the form, and everyone in between. Whether you’re searching for a way into a massive personal story you’re struggling to write, or merely curious about what it might look like to put your life experiences into words, this class is designed to give you tools that will spark your personal writing long after our meetings end.
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 Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- Learn how to see the building blocks of memoir/essay in several forms of media
- Learn how to connect with readers by focusing everyday experiences and routines
- An original draft of a personal essay/memoir of up to 10 pages
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
To prepare for class each week, students will read up to 20 pages of either a craft or creative essay, as well as related multimedia. They will also complete one original writing exercise. Students receive verbal feedback from the instructor and other students. There will be no written feedback in this seminar.
Week 1: Greetings & Discussion: what are building blocks of stories?
Week 2: Show & Tell: what in your life tells a story?
Week 3: Group 1 prose discussion
Week 4: Group 2 prose discussion & next steps
Mike Scalise’s memoir, The Brand New Catastrophe (Sarabande Books), was the recipient of The Center for Fiction's Christopher Doheny Award. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, AGNI, Indiewire, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. He’s an 826DC advisory board member, has received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, and was the Philip Roth Writer in Residence at Bucknell University.
“Mike Scalise gives incredibly smart editorial feedback, and excels at delivering that feedback with wit and grace. He has a gift for seeing right to the heart of a book.”
“A very funny book about the frailties of the flesh, the absurdities of modern medicine, and how to stay sane amid it all. Scalise’s voice is fantastically entertaining, unfailingly honest.”
“As funny as it is smart about the mortality, the fragility of our bodies, and understanding the worst things that happen to us.”
‘[Scalise’s] way is with humor, optimism, courage and probing introspection, the very characteristics—combined with crisp prose and a rare and innately interesting medical condition—that make this a winning literary debut.”
“Mike is the rare kind of teacher who not only gives lucid, gentle, yet incisive feedback, but also guides the workshop in such a way that students can fully contribute to each other's work. I have never seen anyone else drive the discussion as deeply as Mike does—he taught us how to pinpoint the core of every story and analyze inconsistencies from there. I left every week with new insights on how to structure my memoir, and I've become an infinitely better reader. Plus, he's really funny, so class is a joy.”
“I have taken a handful of writing classes in NYC, and Mike's memoir workshop was hands-down the most valuable (and the most fun). Mike's thorough and spot-on insights on my writing inspired solutions for my biggest challenges, allowing me to make significant progress on my first manuscript.”