Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Nonfiction Workshop: The Reported Essay

Why should a reader care about your experience? Personal essays fall short when they don’t convince the reader that the writer’s story matters. In this class, writers will learn how to take their personal essay writing to the next level by teasing out the broader implications of their individual stories, and integrating research and reportage with personal narratives. Those working on memoir or creative non-fiction projects will also be welcome. 

We’ll study classic and contemporary essays by writers like Leslie Jamison, Colson Whitehead, Jia Tolentino, Joan Didion, Luc Sante, Elizabeth Hardwick and look at student work in this context. We will also focus on successful strategies for pitching, navigating the publishing industry, and the business of being a writer.

This class offers the rare opportunity of having two teachers with different but complementary backgrounds engage with your work. You’ll get the perspective of a journalist (Alice) and a novelist (Max); a staff writer (Alice) and a magazine editor (Max).

This course is best suited to writers with prior workshop experience. Students will workshop two pieces and several pitches, and will receive written feedback from both instructors and their classmates. Students will also have a private conference with both Alice and Max.


- How to integrate research and reporting into personal essay writing

- Real practice honing your pitches with feedback from a staff writer and editor

- Leave class with two polished essays 

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Provide written and in-line comments for your classmates' workshops

- Weekly reading assignments

- Submit twice for workshop

Maxwell Neely-Cohen

Maxwell Neely-Cohen is is the author of the novel Echo of the Boom and Editor-at-Large for The Believer. His essays and non-fiction have been featured in places like The New Republic, Ssense, Buzzfeed, The Millions, Oxford American, and BOMB Magazine. His experiments with literature and technology have been acclaimed by The New York Times Magazine and Electric Literature

Alice Robb

Alice Robb is the author of Why We Dream (November 2018/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which was excerpted on the front page of The New York Times Sunday Review and praised by The New Yorker, Vogue, NPR, TIME, and The Guardian. It will be translated into thirteen foreign languages. Formerly a staff writer at The New Republic, she writes regularly for places like The Washington Post, New York, and Elle


“Alice is a thoughtful, detail-oriented editor whose humor and caring I've always deeply appreciated.”

writing partner

“Alice is an exceptionally generous and thoughtful reader and editor who has been an invaluable source of insight and advice for me as I've labored through successive drafts of my current book proposal. Any student would be better for having had her as a teacher.”

writing partner

“Max is an insanely generous teacher, he treats your writing like it’s going to change the world, with an unparalleled enthusiasm I won’t soon forget. He wants you to succeed.” - former student “Selfless and hardworking, Max didn’t just make us better writers, but he’s taught us how the publishing industry works, and invested in us past the duration of this class.”

former student

“Neely-Cohen’s first novel is definitely the real thing.”

Bethanne Patrick WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE, “Top 10 Books for April 2014”

"Alice Robb’s WHY WE DREAM: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF OUR NIGHTLY JOURNEY was for me a gentle and affecting invitation to reconsider a seemingly boring daily routine.”

Edith Zimmerman THE CUT, “Best Health and Science Books of 2018”

“WHY WE DREAM is a spirited, cogent defense of dreams and dream-telling.”

Lily Meyer NPR

“In celebrating dreams as poetic artifacts, Robb offers a welcome antidote to the medicine administered by most sleep gurus."