“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).” - former student
You’ve got a story to tell, but what shape should it take? Should it be chronological, or free-flowing? Narrative or lyric? In this six-week workshop, we’ll look closely at memoir excerpts from Danzy Senna, Margo Jefferson, and Deb Olin Unferth, as well as cross-genre work from director Mike Mills and graphic novelist Gabrielle Bell, then collaborate to build a literary rubric for how personal stories take shape.
Through weekly workshop discussions, and one-on-one feedback from the instructor, we’ll talk intensively about how our structural rubric applies to your own memoir. Whether you’re midway through writing your memoir draft or just beginning one, by the end of the course you’ll have a solid sense of not just what your story is, but how to make it fit.
This class is for anyone at any stage working on a book-length memoir with questions about structure. Please note: if you are working on a collection of personal essays, linked or otherwise, the work we do in this class may not be helpful to your project.
To apply, please submit a short excerpt from your memoir in-progress (5-10 pp.), and a 2-3 sentence synopsis of the book's primary subject, along with what you hope to gain from the course, and which memoirs inspired your own.
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.
- A collaborative, literary rubric for how memoir structure works across different modes
- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on two memoir submissions
- Greater familiarity with book-length narrative structures and influential voices on the craft of memoir
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
To prepare for class each week, students will read up to 20 pages of a craft essay or published memoir excerpt, as well as student excerpts for workshop. Students are expected to prepare written feedback for their peers weekly. They will also submit two memoir excerpts for workshop, each of which receives written feedback and margin commentary from the instructor. Students have one scheduled personal meeting with the instructor.
Week 1 — Discussion & Workshop 1: Basic structure forms
Week 2 — Discussion & Workshop 2: Time and your story
Week 3 — Discussion & Workshop 3: Structuring chapters
Week 4 — Discussion & Workshop 4: Building “The End”
Week 5 — Conversations & Workshop 5
Week 6 — Conversations & Workshop 6
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.”