Online | Memoir | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Advanced Memoir Workshop

Mary Karr says you're too young and must wait. Your mom advises, "Make sure it has a point, like Eat, Pray Love." Your best friend from third grade wants to know if he gets any lines. At parties, people laugh at you when you tell them what you're working on.

Congratulations, you’re a memoirist!

This advanced workshop will provide a support group for writers working on book-length projects based on their own personal experiences. We’ll look at different tactics for chronology and structure, how to hone in on a voice that will carry the reader from cover to cover, and what to do about the bigmouth in your head that says you need permission to write it all down. The instructor will also discuss the path to publication, including whether to finish the manuscript or submit on proposal, and will bring in one or two industry professionals to speak to the class.

During this six-week intensive workshop, each student will workshop twice and meet once with the instructor for an individual conference.


- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on two memoir submissions 

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

- Detailed information about the path to publication, from preparing a memoir for submission to securing representation to what happens after a memoir is sold 

- A stronger sense of your project's strengths and weaknesses and a clear idea of how to revise 

- Practical insights into questions of craft - chronology, structure, POV, detail, and tone 

- More confidence as a writer, on and off the page! 

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


Week 1: Don't Start at the Beginning: we'll read Dani Shapiro and Cheryl Strayed and look at what makes for a compelling memoir opening that can set up the structure of your front and back stories. During the video chat, we'll go over expectations and guidelines for workshopping student work, and discuss work by two students.

Week 2: The Situation and the Story: what is your memoir about? No, I mean, what is it actually about? We'll go beyond your specific story and toward the universal truth by reading Vivian Gornick. Three students will be workshopped during video chat.

Week 3: Central Question and Metaphor: a central question can serve as an anchor for the journey of the narrator. We'll look at central question and metaphor in a short memoir by Francisco Goldman. Your central metaphor may unlock the title of your book for you. Three students will be workshopped during video chat.

Week 4: Vantage Point: there are two of "you" in memoir, your younger self who lived it and your older self who's telling the tale of how she survived it. Reading: Mary Ruefle. Two students will be workshopped during video chat.

Week 5: Every Great Memoir Lives or Dies on Voice: Mary Karr calls voice "the delivery system of the author's experience." We'll read her craft essay on voice and an excerpt from LIT. Three students will be workshopped during video chat.

Week 6: Where Do We Go from Here: During our final class, we will have a visitor from the publishing industry (literary agent or book editor) to help answer questions about what book editors are looking for, how to query agents, selling a book on proposal vs. finished manuscript, and how to build a platform for yourself as a writer. We'll also workshop three student pieces. This final video chat will last an additional hour.

During week 6, Leigh will schedule private 15-minute phone call consultations with each student.

Leigh Stein

Leigh Stein is the author of four books, including the satirical novel Self Care, forthcoming from Penguin in 2020, and the memoir Land of Enchantment. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, ELLE, Allure, BuzzFeed, Slate, and Poets & Writers


"Leigh Stein’s LAND OF ENCHANTMENT is a thoughtful and compelling elegy to a troubled man, a broken love, and a broken dream of the west. It’s about loss, wonder, and the vexed grip of attachment. It grieves by way of admitting complexity—by answering the late-night knock of unfinished business—and its spell is immersive: Once I’d picked it up, I did not set it down again until I’d finished it."

Leslie Jamison NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE EMPATHY EXAMS

"One of the most compelling memoirs I’ve ever read. A mesmerizing requiem on loss and love, Stein’s intelligent ode to adolescent obsession is unflinching in its honest portrayal of what it means to give ourselves over to the dark side of love. This is a glittering gem of a book."

Claire Bidwell Smith author of THE RULES OF INHERITANCE

"Not only is Leigh a sympathetic reader, an excellent and super fast editor, but she also has great ideas about where your work could find a good home and shine there. She is happy to give you the benefit of her vast contemporary reading and enormous network of fellow writers. I learned more from her in 9 months than from all my previous teachers. I only wish I could take more classes from her. See you in class?"

Julie former student

"Leigh is such a wonderful teacher. She considered the work of each student so carefully and drew on her incredible editing skills as well as her vast knowledge of multiple writing fields and styles to provide perceptive, detailed feedback and advice specific to each of us. In the energizing environment of her class, we were encouraged to learn from each other, to think of our work in the context of the larger literary community, to aim high and to get there. Leigh’s remarkable accomplishments are matched only by her generosity. I feel very lucky to have taken a class from her."

Emily former student

"Leigh Stein is proof that we write because we must. And when you answer that call, Leigh helps the words arrive and find the best place on the page. You learn to challenge yourself, through image, metaphor, and all the tools in Leigh’s bag until the work is done."

Cynthia Manick author of BLUE HALLELUJAHS