Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Memoir Workshop: Structure & Shape

You’ve got a story to tell, but what shape should it take? In this six-week workshop, we'll explore how to shape the dense web of your own experience into memoir: should it be chronological or free-flowing? Longform or fragmented? In our weekly meetings, we’ll look at what it means translate your real life into literature. That can be a bumpy ride, so in addition to workshops, exercises, and one-on-one meetings with the instructor, we'll also look at samples of personal prose, graphic memoirs, films, and radio for guidance, and listen to a guest writer or two who have been there themselves. By the end you’ll have a sense not just of what your story is, but how to make it fit.


-intensive peer and instructor feedback on two memoir submissions

-one private conference with the instructor to discuss your writing style, goals, and areas for improvement

-the support of a nurturing community of writers and readers and access to an engaged mentor 

-greater familiarity with contemporary nonfiction writing 

-strategies for dealing with invasive question about personal writing (and the comments!) as well as how to navigate the difficult terrain of writing about loved ones

-more confidence as a writer, on and off the page 

Mike Scalise

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's insight into my memoir-in-progress was invaluable. He cut to the heart of my project, bringing light to key structural issues over which I'd been stumbling, and proposing ideas and suggestions to help resolve the problems. My work is far stronger for having worked with Mike.”

former student

“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.”

Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A MURDER, A MEMOIR

“Like the dynamo spawn of Louis CK and Oliver Sacks, Mike Scalise’s startling and slyly hilarious memoir is a heartfelt reminder of how astonishing, how terrifying, how absurd it is to be a body. An essential book for those who’ve lived through catastrophe, or only imagined it.”


“As funny as it is smart about mortality, the fragility of our bodies, and understanding the worst things that happen to us.”

BuzzFeed Books

“Fascinating and engaging … A frankly written debut memoir that captures all the fright of a medical calamity and the humor and grace necessary to survive it.”

Kirkus Reviews

“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.”

Dave Eggers author of A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING