Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Nonfiction Workshop: Playing with Form & Structure in Personal Essays

An essay's structure and form can play a large role in strengthening the poignancy of a piece, as well as allow writers to push themselves to be more creative in ways that they might not have typically considered. But what does it mean for an unconventional structure to "work" or to be "right" for this particular essay?

Through a combination of assigned readings and workshops, we will discuss how certain structures hinder or free the content of that particular piece. Students will consider questions such as: Does this structure "work" or does it feel more "gimmicky"? Where can you get inspiration for new ways to structure your essays?

For workshop, students are free to write "about" whatever topic(s) they would like. Each of their workshop pieces only need to meet one of two criteria:

One workshop piece must be a fragmented essay

The second piece must take on a "non-traditional" structure. As you will see in our assigned readings, this might be a cooking recipe, a different kind of fragmented essay, a diary entry, or an essay written in the second person or perhaps in future tense (these are just a few ideas). Students are encouraged to experiment with a structure or form that they might not have normally considered.

Everyone will workshop their "fragmented" essays first before we move onto the "non-traditional" essays.

After our last workshop, I will open up to an impromptu Q&A regarding the "industry" side of publishing an essay collection—anything that students might be interested in, from querying agents to having a "platform" to assembling a proposal for publishers.

This will be a workshop-heavy course and is designed for writers who are already familiar with the basics of the personal essay and want to experiment with form and structure.

Writers will leave class with two drafts of new essays, intensive feedback from their peers and instructor, and a deeper understanding of how to examine and utilize unconventional essay structures from a craft perspective and why structure is as integral to a piece’s success as its content.

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.  


- Two workshopped essays with verbal and written feedback

- A stronger understanding of how to use structure to strengthen (rather than hinder or distract from) the content of your writing

- An expansive grasp on the different forms and structures that a personal essay can take

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Each week, students will read one to two short(ish) assigned essays that play with form and structure in some way. We will spend the first third of the class discussing the reading before diving right into workshopping.

Students will be required to upload their pieces (no more than 3000 words) at least a week before it is their turn for workshop (e.g. if you are being workshopped on the 14th, you will need to have your piece uploaded by the 7th). Two students will be workshopped per week. All students are required to return a short piece of written feedback (approx. 500 words) to the respective writers being workshopped.


Week 1: Introductory overview; first workshop

Week 2: Fragmented essay structures; second workshop

Week 3:Fragmented essay structures; third workshop

Week 4:Non-traditional essay structures; fourth workshop

Week 5:Non-traditional essay structures; fifth workshop

Week 6: sixth workshop; informal Q&A about publishing

Pyae Moe Thet War

Pyae Moe Thet War is a writer and digital media editor currently living in Yangon. She holds a BA from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and MA's from University College London and the University of East Anglia. Her debut book, an essay collection titled You've Changed, will be published in 2022.


“Bracing, heartfelt, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Pyae Moe Thet War considers the complexities of migration, belonging, and what it means to love in a debut that is as refreshing as it is welcoming. I can't wait to read more from this wonderful writer.”

Nicole Chung author of ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW

“Reading YOU'VE CHANGED is like staying up all night with a new friend, swapping stories over a take-out container of fried rice. I was charmed by Pyae Moe Thet War's voice, at turns vulnerable, self-deprecating, and always humorous, and by her thoughtful exploration of the liminal space in which her multitude of identities—Myanmar, woman, feminist, writer—reside.”

Larissa Pham author of POP SONG

"YOU'VE CHANGED is an inviting work by a debut author whose voice flexes its skill across different terrains of living and being. Pyae Moe Thet War meditates and grapples with identity as it relates to migration, Western assimilation, and intergenerational expectations—a fine book from a severely underrepresented voice in the world of arts and letters. I hope this work leaves the door open for other Myanmar writers."

Morgan Jerkins author of CAUL BABY