Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Nonfiction Workshop: Writing The Pop Culture Essay

“Don’t call it a comeback/I’ve been here for years.” - James Todd Smith

Despite what the internet may boast, it did not invent pop culture writing. When done well, pop culture essays transcend the click-grab, hot-take impulses of the dreaded “thinkpiece” and become illuminating works on the lasting influence of music, TV, film, celebrity, and national conversation on our lives. 

Recommended for those with some previous personal essay-writing experience who wish to expand and experiment with subject and theme, this class will align your cultural lens to pick up on the best stories lurking just behind the celluloid. Throughout the course, we will engage with a set of prompts that use pop culture to evoke memories and illuminate new scenes in personal essays and, by the time class ends, students will have a better sense of the pitching process and what publications might be a good fit for their own pop culture writing.

Students will produce two full-length essays (one piece of criticism and one personal story) during the course that will be workshopped by fellow students and will additionally receive generative instructor feedback as well as next-step recommendations.

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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- A set of prompts for generating pop culture essays that offer a more nuanced pop culture experience beyond a love/hate take

- Pop culture writing notes and reading suggestions beyond what we cover in the course

- Two complete essays—one piece of criticism and one personal story—using the techniques for observation and pop culture extraction developed in the course

- Workshop feedback from the instructor and fellow students

- New writing contacts and friends with similar writing goals (and who may just share your lifelong Sailor Moon obsession)

- Insight into the pop culture essay query process and how to avoid common pitfalls

- Personal instructor feedback on where and how to pitch pop culture essays based on your individual interests and writing style

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Week One: Introductions & Goals

Week Two: The Origins of Pop Culture Writing

Week Three: The Age of Television & Its Recaps

Week Four: Workshop #1

Week Five: Personal Pop Culture Essay Writing

Week Six: Workshop #2

Tabitha Blankenbiller

Tabitha Blankenbiller is the author of the debut essay collection Eats of Eden: A Foodoir, released from Alternating Current Press in March 2018. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Catapult, Electric Lit, The Rumpus, Narratively, Hobart, Barrelhouse, Bustle, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and a number of other journals. She graduated from the Pacific University MFA program and lives outside of Portland, Oregon. 


“EATS OF EDEN is truly a delicious treat! Blankenbiller is a confident essay writer, making it look easy as she lets us into her hungry heart in this bright, satisfying collection. She waxes on food and being a writer and wrestles with rejection, ambition, and cheese-lust. Peppered with recipes, pop culture, sugar-sweetness, and plenty of nostalgia, this book is a unique, honest, funny, glittery, high-energy explosion of a sparkly cupcake—easily and greedily devoured.”

Leesa Cross-Smith author of WHISKEY & RIBBONS and EVERY KISS A WAR

“Lush, rich and delicious, these essays are as tasty as the recipes she delivers: Blankenbiller dishes not only fun but depth and honesty. She shows us that literature is not meant to fly above taste but delve into it. What a satisfying read.”

Rene Denfeld author of THE CHILD FINDER and THE ENCHANTED

“A writer’s life can be ridiculous, between the self-sabotage, the hours spent moving commas and carefully crafting our public images, never mind the risks we take to create moments of deep luminous beauty only for the world to ignore them. Blankenbiller writes a triumphant, existential comedy of errors about finding her way as a creative person, making readers laugh one moment and nod the next. I love when books can be this fun and vulnerable. She laughs without hiding behind the humor. She also includes recipes, because she knows salvation lies in food and friends. Take a risk. Bake a strata. Read EATS OF EDEN.”


"Tabitha brings the same qualities to her editing/teaching that she brings to her writing: Endless enthusiasm, patience, and the wisdom that comes from years and years of practice. She is incredibly well read and always knows the right example to recommend when you're stuck and need to learn from one of the masters. She knows that the only way to fine-tune our skills is to be honest about what's working and what's not. But she also know what many writing teachers don't: That bad news is always more effective when delivered with a spoonful of honey."

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