Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Nonfiction Workshop: Character Building

"So I spent this money instead of taking a trip to Wrestlemania. It was well worth it. It was def. the best thing I’ll have done all year. I made Chelsea Martin laugh. That’s like the coolest thing. I’m very sad now that it’s over. I had some very genuine and joyous experiences that took me out of the mundane and trivial aspects of my normal life.” - former Catapult student

This course is for writers of all stages working on memoir or personal essays.

During our six weeks together, we will work on developing nuanced characters based on real people that complicate and strengthen our stories. We'll look at examples of nonfiction that treat characters with compassion, honesty, and frankness, and develop ways to bring these qualities into our own writing. We’ll also discuss how humor, voice, and perspective can be used to draw readers into serious or difficult subject matter. 

Every writer will have the opportunity to workshop twice, and will meet once with the instructor for an individual conference to discuss their goals and progress. By the end of this class, students will be more comfortable writing about themselves, and will have learned numerous strategies for managing the ongoing anxieties that come with writing about others.


- a broader understanding of how to create nuanced and relatable characters

- various ways of approaching a true story

- empowerment to take on difficult personal subject matter


Week 1: Introductions, the ethics of writing nonfiction, interpreting truth

Week 2: Reflecting on past selves, perspective choices, Workshop #1

Week 3: Creating nuanced characters, Workshop # 2

Week 4: Humor & voice, Workshop # 3

Week 5: Recalling dialogue, Workshop # 4

Week 6: Character arcs

Chelsea Martin

Chelsea Martin is the author of Everything Was Fine Until Whatever, The Really Funny Thing About Apathy, Even Though I Don't Miss YouMickey, and Caca Dolce. Her work has appeared in publications including Buzzfeed, Lenny Letter, Vice, Hobart, and Catapult.


“CACA DOLCE explores the discomfort, melancholia and absurdity of taking up space in the world when we aren't sure if we really deserve it. Deeply human―it's a lonely book that made me feel less alone.”

Melissa Broder author of SO SAD TODAY

“Chelsea Martin is one of the best American writers alive. Savage and sharp, tender and hilarious, Martin’s CACA DOLCE is a book like she’s never written before. She’s given us poetry, prose, novels, and comics. Now she’s given us a perfect personal essay collection as well. You'll only think one thing after reading it. Chelsea Martin can do anything.”

Scott McLanahan author of HILL WILLIAM

“These essays provide a portrait of one narrator’s search for identity through a complexity of stories that offer a door into adolescent confusion, pain, amusement, and awkwardness . . . CACA DOLCE provides a journey into Martin’s personal experience, allowing empathy toward the years we all take to find ourselves while navigating through awkward terrain.”


“Martin’s honest writing exists above the confines of fear and social norms. She is . . . a breath of pure oxygen in a literary environment that often shies away from female grit . . . her writing is sweaty, uncomfortable, and enchanting . . . She taps into the consciousness of her past selves with precision and care, respecting the integrity and desires of those younger women. A sure hit for fans of Sara Benincasa’s AGORAFABULOUS! and Lena Dunham’s NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL.”

BOOKLIST starred review