Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Nonfiction Workshop: Writing About Mental Health, Difference, and Disability

There is no object in the known universe more complex—or for many, more fascinating—than the human brain. And yet, it is still largely taboo to discuss issues related to the brain, such as mental difference, illness, and disability, which can make it difficult to explore the ways these may shape our lives. In this six-week nonfiction workshop/seminar, we’ll tackle this taboo head-on. Together, we will establish this class as a “stigma-free” space, creating a supportive framework in which to write about our perspectives on the experience and meaning of mental health.

With the aim of writing both authentically and responsibly, we’ll read and discuss mental health-related personal essays and memoir excerpts, with a thoughtful eye to the influence of broader cultural, political, and historical forces. We’ll look at work by writers who have dealt with such challenges in their own lives and those of loved ones—such as Esmé Weijun Wang, Jordan Kisner, and Melissa Febos—involving both diagnosed conditions and less clearly defined forms of mental distress. In the process, we’ll examine important issues such as trauma and ableism, and consider how our own writing can contribute to moving the conversation forward in positive ways. To do so we’ll engage in weekly writing exercises, and over the course of the class, each participant will write one essay to be workshopped by the group. All of this will be aimed at encouraging students to freely experiment and to view individual stories within a broader social context. This course is for students with some previous creative writing experience.

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.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Practice writing about mental health within a safe, supportive, responsible environment

- Exposure to a range of approaches to personal writing about mental health, difference, and disability

- A clearer sense of how students’ individual perspectives can contribute to the broader conversation of mental health

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

- Weekly readings of up to 20 pages

- Short weekly writing exercises

- One 7-12–page (double-spaced) workshop submission

- Students should be prepared to give thoughtful feedback on their peers’ workshop submissions

COURSE SKELETON:

Week 1: Welcome! / The Language that We Use

Discussion and In-Class Exercises

Week 2: Experience / Constructing the Self

Workshop (two submissions), Discussion, Exercise

Week 3: Science / Incorporating Research

Workshop (two submissions), Discussion, Exercise

Week 4: Culture / Ethics & Perspectives

Workshop (two submissions), Discussion, Exercise

Week 5: Philosophy / Making Meaning

Workshop (two submissions), Discussion, Exercise

Week 6: Politics / Looking Forward

Discussion, Individual Conferences

Marin Sardy

Marin Sardy is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia (2019). Sardy’s essays have appeared in the New Yorker online, Guernica, Tin House, the Paris Review online, the Missouri Review, and many other journals, as well as in two award-winning photography books. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Sardy has three times had essays listed as “notable” in the Best American series and has been awarded fellowships from Hawthornden Castle, Catwalk Institute, and the Hertog Foundation. She teaches writing for Pace University and Catapult. 

Testimonials

“Marin was instrumental to my growth as a writer. She took what I was interested in and used it as a springboard to craft lessons that pushed me and allowed me to practice different techniques and styles. Every time we wrapped up, I began counting down until the next meeting. I can’t recommend her highly enough!”

Julia, former student

“Marin’s expertise in the craft of writing is stunning, elegant, and unselfconscious. She is an inspiring teacher. I learned more about creative writing during one session with Marin than I did from a semester of college-level courses.”

Kaz, former student

“A painful and beautiful account of what it means to live with and love someone suffering from mental illness, and how those relationships shape you and your understanding of the world. Required reading for ... anyone looking to deepen their sense of empathy and understanding of others... so, everyone? Incredible book.”

E.B. Bartels ELECTRIC LITERATURE

“Sardy delivers an extraordinarily ambitious and accomplished narrative … The author refuses to follow conventional notions of chronology or connection, illuminating mental illness from the inside out. … Both powerful and disturbing, this impressive debut memoir suggests just how challenging it can be to regain some semblance of balance after that balance is lost.”

KIRKUS REVIEW (starred review)

“With an expert hand, Sardy breathes life and urgency into her simultaneously intimate and expansive telling of how the echoes of mental illness have reverberated through a family. THE EDGE OF EVERY DAY is, to borrow Sardy’s words, “comically, cosmically sad” and an astonishing, essential read.”

Jillian Karande BUZZFEED