Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Nonfiction Workshop: How To Tell Your Own Story

“Katie's input has greatly improved my own work, from draft to publication, and any student would do very well to benefit from her keen eye for edits.” - Jessica Misener, managing editor at TuneIn and former deputy editorial director at BuzzFeed

This is a class for students currently working on memoirs and/or personal essay collections. Together we’ll focus on creating new work in addition to shaping existing work, with an eye toward building a strong, personal story told in the writer’s most honest, captivating voice.

Writing about one’s personal life can be both overwhelming (where to begin?) and profoundly cathartic—this class aims to create a safe, welcoming atmosphere in which to dive deeper into oneself, and to find those stories and experiences which translate best onto the page. We’ll talk about balancing scenes with introspection, establishing a narrative arc, finding one’s voice, and how to make your readers laugh (and cry) along with you.

Students admitted to this class should expect weekly writing exercises, the opportunity for two class-wide workshops, readings from contemporary memoir and essay writers, discussions about publication (where, when, and how), and the opportunity for a one-on-one workshop regarding students’ current projects and goals. 


- intensive and specific peer and instructor feedback on two memoir/personal essay submissions

- a clearer plan of attack and sense of direction for one’s personal writing project

- practical strategies for getting and keeping your butt in the writing chair

- a one-on-one meeting with the instructor to discuss your work, writing style, goals, and areas for improvement

- a greater familiarity with what it means to write about one’s private life for the public, and the potential risks (and rewards) to consider when doing so

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


Week 1: Introductions; discussion about writing processes and goals

Week 2: Finding your voice, workshop #1

Week 3: Building a narrative, workshop #2

Week 4: Creating a scene, workshop #3

Week 5: World-building and description, workshop #4

Week 6: Pitching, queries, agents, publishing advice, workshop #5

Katie Heaney

Katie Heaney is the author of two memoirs, Would You Rather? (out March 2018) and Never Have I Ever, a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Humor (2014), as well as two novels, Public Relations and Dear Emma. She lives and works as a freelance writer in Brooklyn. 


“Katie Heaney is so hilariously fun to read that you may not notice right away how insightful she is about friendship, romance, and the essential weirdness of human relationships."


"WOULD YOU RATHER? is an extraordinarily generous and affecting book. Katie Heaney has written something with a remarkable amount of room in it—enough for anyone to spread out and connect with. It's deeply felt, clear-eyed, joyful and illuminating. It's a beautiful and worthy companion to her first memoir, and I can't wait to see what happens next."

Mallory Ortberg author of TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE

"What does it mean to find yourself, to know who you are and walk boldly in that truth? WOULD YOU RATHER? takes readers on that journey along with Katie, reveling in the relief and glee of finding your tribe and frolics in the exquisite joy of being a woman who loves women."

Jenna Wortham staff writer at the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE and co-host of the podcast "Still Processing"

“Katie has been the number one person I've approached to edit my personal writing for years. She's not only prompt and gracious, but she reads deeply where others might skim and gives helpful critical insight where others might shy away from telling you where your essay is, frankly, dragging. Katie's input has greatly improved my own work, from draft to publication, and any student would do very well to benefit from her keen eye for edits.”

Jessica Misener managing editor at TuneIn and former deputy editorial director at BuzzFeed

“I've worked with Katie in a variety of capacities: I've edited her, been edited by her, and worked alongside her when she oversaw a group of writers at BuzzFeed. She's patient and thorough, always able to cut through to the real heart of a piece while preserving its original voice. She's often been someone I send a draft to when I'm still in the 'WHAT IS THIS, IS THIS ANYTHING?????' phase, and she is very good at responding with a kind, firm "Yes, and here's how to make it better.”

Alanna Okun author of THE CURSE OF THE BOYFRIEND SWEATER and senior editor at Racked

"Katie's editing prowess helped my humorous essay on pet lobsters (yes, seriously, pet lobsters) come to fruition in the finest form I could have imagined. An incredibly perceptive and supportive editor with wry wit, she was nothing short than a pleasure to work with in every capacity — both when it came to my own work as well as pieces we worked on in tandem when I was copy chief at BuzzFeed. She's tactful and sharp, and her ability to lend valuable feedback and polish pieces without losing voice or tone whatsoever makes anyone whose prose she touches one lucky writer indeed."