Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Nonfiction Workshop: The Reported Essay

Personal essays fall short when they don’t convince the reader that the writer’s story matters: Why should a reader care about your experience? 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 own stories and integrating reportage with personal narratives. Those working on straight memoir or literary journalism are also welcome.

In workshops, we will focus on elements of craft (voice, pacing, sentence flow) that are relevant across all genres, as well as the nuts and bolts—and ethics—of research and reporting (who to call for a quote; where to go for a colorful scene; how to search online archives/court records/academic journals). We will study reported personal essays by writers like Leslie Jamison, Elif Batuman, and Jia Tolentino, and learn how to read like a writer.

Students will workshop two pieces and will receive written feedback from the instructor and their classmates. (The two pieces can be separate, or part of one larger project.) Students need not have prior workshop experience, but they should be motivated writers with an idea of what they will submit for critique. Students will also have a private conference with the instructor.


- How to integrate research and reporting into memoir and personal narrative

- Leave class with one to two workshopped, polished pieces

- A personalized reading list

- 1 one-on-one meeting with the instructor to discuss your work

- 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 classmates' workshops

- Submit once or twice for workshop

- Weekly reading assignments

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


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

Zoe Heller The New Yorker

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

Lily Meyer NPR

"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's “Best Health and Science Books of 2018”