Online | Open-Genre | Intensive

Don’t Write Alone: Online Retreat

Our Don’t Write Alone retreat is back—virtually!

This October, Catapult is transforming our beloved weekend retreat into a nine-day virtual gathering dedicated to the act and craft of writing.

The retreat’s five weeknights and bookending weekends will feature craft talks and panel discussions on topics such as breaking into publishing, refreshing your writing practice, and finding the community that will sustain your writing life. 

So often, the hardest thing about writing is actually sitting down to do it. But we believe that giving yourself the time and space to write, and committing to your practice with the reinforcement of others, can be deeply productive and invigorating. We hope this retreat can be the start of something great in your writing life—maybe even that book you’ve always wanted to write. We can’t wait to see you there!


$399 admission covers full access to all keynotes, craft talks, seminars, panels, studios, and digital resources starting Saturday, October 16 at 10 a.m. ET.

Writers also have the option of adding on a two-day weekend workshop led by a Catapult instructor. Please note that in order to participate in either of the weekend prose workshops, you must have up to 15 double-spaced pages ready for submission by Friday, October 1.

We will offer a generative workshop with Joy Priest. Groups will be capped at eight students, and spaces in workshops are limited. Cost to enroll in a workshop is an additional $199. If you would like to enroll in a two-day weekend workshop, please purchase your DWA admission and email us at [email protected]


Saturday, Oct. 16

10 - 11 a.m. ET | DWA Kickoff Event!
Megan Stielstra
Jump right into meeting your fellow retreat-goers, and prepare with author and Catapult instructor Megan Stielstra for 9 days of writing in shared virtual space.

11 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET | Conversation and Q&A: Forming (and Maintaining) Great Writing Friendships
Hilary Leichter and Denne Michele Norris
Two writers share their own experiences as friends and peers, as well as the insights they’ve uncovered about how writing friendships can shape your practice, your learning, your navigation of the industry, and your emotional survival! At least 15 minutes of Q&A will be included in the hour.

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Work best in a room of focused writers? Just join our virtual salon to quietly focus on your writing with fellow retreat-goers. We’ll supply writing exercises, playlists, and snack recipes from some of our favorite writers to help you make the most of your time!

1 - 4 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Workshop
Joy Priest (poetry)
Enhance your writing experience with a workshop from one of our Catapult instructors! See “Admission costs” above for details on how to register. Space is limited!

5 - 6 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: On Becoming a Storyteller
Kali Fajardo-Anstine
With a novel slated for release in 2022, Kali Fajardo-Anstine will reflect on what led her to abandon long-form fiction altogether for several years, finding success with short stories—before ultimately coming to appreciate the process of writing both short and long fiction and what it means to move between them. This lecture will also discuss noted differences between the forms, how to spot when an idea is better-suited for a novel or a short story, and how these two very distinct forms of fiction compliment one another and journey as artists and writers. At least 15 minutes of Q&A will be included in the hour.

Sunday, Oct. 17

11 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: On Editing Your Own Work
Emily Nemens
It's wonderful when trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors can read our works-in-progress—but sometimes, the value of their editorial advice varies as much as their availability. In this craft talk, acclaimed novelist (and former editor of The Paris Review and The Southern Review) Emily Nemens offers her advice on being your own best editor. At least 15 minutes of Q&A will be included in the hour.

12 - 4 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

12 - 3 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Workshop
Joy Priest (poetry)
Enhance your writing experience with a workshop from one of our Catapult instructors! See “Admission costs” above for details on how to register. Space is limited!

4 - 5 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Craft, Community, and the "Genre" vs. "Literary" Debate
Sequoia Nagamatsu

5:10 - 6:10 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Writing on Your Own Terms
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
If expressing your deepest truths is what motivates you to write, how do you forge a creative path that resists the tyranny of the market in determining what you can and cannot publish? Is it possible that writing toward specificity, nuance, complication, messiness, emotion, and intimacy is what makes your work accessible, rather than hackneyed ideas of universality based on corporate notions of genre, niche, audience, or narrative structure? This craft talk can’t promise answers, but it can promise a lively invocation of the creative impulse beyond outdated ideas about marketability. At least 15 minutes of Q&A will be included in the hour.

Monday, Oct. 18

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description above.

6:30 - 8 p.m. ET | Keynote Lecture
Deesha Philyaw
This keynote lecture will explore what it means to “write in community.” What do we ask of each other? What do we offer each other? At least half an hour of Q&A will be included in the 90 minutes.

Tuesday, Oct. 19

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

6:30 - 8 p.m. ET | Panel and Q&A: Writing Across Genres
Destiny O. Birdsong, Nina Coomes, Calvin Kasulke, Arriel Vinson (moderator Matt Ortile)
Four of Catapult’s extraordinary magazine contributors will discuss writing and publishing in multiple genres (including essay, poetry, and short fiction) from creative and professional standpoints, guided by the magazine’s managing editor, Matt Ortile. At least half an hour of Q&A will be included in the 90 minutes.

Wednesday, Oct. 20

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

6:30 - 8 p.m. ET | Conversation and Q&A: From the Query Onward (An Author and Agent Tell You Everything)
Annie Hwang and Sequoia Nagamatsu

Thursday, Oct. 21

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

6:30 - 8 p.m. ET | Debut Writers Night!
Simon Han, Okezie Nwoka, Nadia Owusu, Brenda Peynado, Bishakh Som
Five of the most exciting debut writers from the past year will read from their books—and answer your questions about their writing and the debut experience. Join us in celebration of their books! At least 20 minutes of Q&A will be included in the 90 minutes.

8:10 - 9:40 p.m. ET | Tarot + Craft live readings
Sarah Elaine Smith
The author of Don’t Write Alone’s “Tarot + Craft” column will give FOUR live readings in response to questions about writing, pulled from entries submitted by retreat-goers like you!

Friday, Oct. 22 

12 - 5 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

6:30 - 8 p.m. ET
Nerd Jeopardy!
Ryan Chapman
Billed as a book-centric version of the "Jeopardy!" show with more swearing and less professionalism, this beloved event from author Ryan Chapman will hold a special edition just for Don’t Write Alone attendees!

Saturday, Oct. 23

11 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Think Like a Crime Writer
Steph Cha

12 - 4 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

4 - 5 p.m. ET | Panel and Q&A: Working with An Editor (The Process from Pitching to Publication)
Tajja Isen, Allisen Hae Ji Lichtenstein, Matt Ortile (moderator Stella Cabot Wilson)
During this panel with Catapult magazine editors, attendees will learn about the publication process. After describing their own professional journeys and discussing what the publication and editing process looks like at Catapult, the panelists will answer questions from the audience relating to the online publishing industry.

5:10 - 6:10 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Documents, Maps, Memories (The Poems in Your Writing)
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Sunday, Oct. 24

11 am - 12 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Follow the Magic (Letting Your Passion Drive Your Research)
Larissa Pham
Writing in any genre can be inspired and enriched by research, and we can identify our research interests by examining what we already respond to and care about! Author Larissa Pham will cover the creative and the practical, including different resources for doing various kinds of research, in this craft lecture. At least 15 minutes of Q&A will be included in the hour.

12 - 4 p.m. ET | Optional Writing Studio
Description under 10/16.

4 - 5 p.m. ET | Craft lecture and Q&A: Writing Machines (The Power of Poetic Computation)
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

5:10 - 6:10 p.m. ET | Closing Keynote Conversation
Samantha Irby and Megan Stielstra
A lifetime or two before they were published, essayists Samantha Irby and Megan Stielstra met performing their work on microphones in dark, sweaty (omg so sweaty) bars in Chicago. To close off Catapult's first virtual Don't Write Alone retreat, they're taking their ongoing, occasionally trashy conversations about writing and the beautiful, stupid world we write in and about out of their group text thread and into your living room. How does the process of writing with others change for different forms; blogs, essays, scripts, live performance? When does writing with others save you (get me the hell of my own head) and when does it hurt (jesus leave me alone, I'm on d e a d l i n e)? And when do we need to just close the laptop and call our girlfriends before we light the house on fire?

6:15 - 7:15 p.m. ET | Closing Social Hour w/Cocktail & Mocktail Demonstrations (mics on !)
Natalka Burian


Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of Travesty Generator (Noemi Press), a book of computational poetry that received the Poetry Society of America’s 2020 Anna Rabinowitz prize for interdisciplinary work. Their other poetry books include How Narrow My Escapes (DIAGRAM/New Michigan), Personal Science (Tupelo), a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press), and But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise (Red Hen Press). They are the current director of the MFA program at UMass Boston.

Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has either appeared or is forthcoming in Poets & Writers, The Paris Review Daily, Boston Review, African American Review, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, Negotiations, was published by Tin House Books in October 2020, and was longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection. Her debut novel, Nobody's Magic, is forthcoming from Grand Central in February 2022. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University.

Stella Cabot Wilson is Catapult's Writing Programs Coordinator and an Associate Editor for Don't Write Alone and Catapult magazine. She grew up in Colorado and Wyoming and has lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and New York City. You can find her on Twitter @ssrosecw

Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the California Book Award, and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. She’s a critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she served as noir editor, and is the current series editor of the Best American Mystery & Suspense anthology. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Ryan Chapman is the author of the novel Riots I Have Known (Simon & Schuster, May 2019) and the illustrated book Conversation Sparks (Chronicle Books). He's written for The New Yorker, GQ, The Believer, Electric Literature, Longreads, Guernica, and elsewhere. He has previously worked in marketing and online editorial for Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, The Penguin Press, and BOMB magazine. He lives in upstate New York.

Nina Li Coomes is a Japanese and American writer, currently living in Chicago where she attends the Litowitz MFA + MA program. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, EATER, and elsewhere. You can find more of her work at, or follow her on twitter @nlcoomes..

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is from Denver, Colorado. The author of Sabrina & Corina, a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Bingham Prize, The Clark Prize, The Story Prize, the Saroyan International Prize, and winner of an American Book Award, she is the 2021 recipient of the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work has been honored with the Denver Mayor’s Award for Global Impact in the Arts and the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Reading the West Award. She has written for The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, O: the Oprah Magazine, The American Scholar, Boston Review, and elsewhere, and has received fellowships from MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and Tin House. Fajardo-Anstine earned her MFA from the University of Wyoming and has lived across the country, from Durango, Colorado, to Key West, Florida.

Simon Han is the author of Nights When Nothing Happened (Riverhead Books, 2020). His short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Electric Literature, and the Texas Observer. He's received awards from the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, and Vanderbilt University, where he earned his MFA. He has most recently taught at the University of Tulsa and the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.

Samantha Irby writes a blog called bitches gotta eat! and has written three books: Meaty, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and Wow, No Thank You.

Tajja Isen is the author of Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service and co-editor of the anthology The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate, both of which will be published in spring 2022. She is an editor for Catapult magazine and the former digital editor of The Walrus. Also a voice actor, Tajja can be heard on such animated shows as The Berenstain Bears, Atomic Betty, and Go Dog Go, among others. At present, she lives in Toronto and tweets @tajjaisen.

Calvin Kasulke is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of the novel Several People Are Typing and the recipient of a Lambda Literary fellowship in playwriting. Calvin's writing and reporting have been published by VICE, MEL Magazine, DC Comics, and others. You can find him on Twitter at @cjkasulke.

Hilary Leichter is the author of the novel Temporary, which was shortlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. Her writing has appeared in n+1, The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times, and Conjunctions. She teaches fiction at Columbia University.

Allisen Hae Ji Lichtenstein is the assistant editor at Catapult magazine and Don’t Write Alone. Her work has been published on Guernica, Catapult, and elsewhere. 

Sequoia Nagamatsu is the author of the forthcoming novels, How High We Go in the Dark (2022) and Girl Zero (William Morrow/Harper Collins and Bloomsbury UK) and the story collection, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone (Black Lawrence Press), silver medal winner of the 2016 Foreword Reviews Indies Book of the Year Award, an Entropy Magazine Best Book of 2016, and a notable book at Buzzfeed. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Conjunctions, The Southern Review, ZYZZYVA, Tin House, Iowa Review, Lightspeed Magazine, and One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories, and has been listed as notable in Best American Non-Required Reading and the Best Horror of the Year. He teaches creative writing at Saint Olaf College and the Rainier Writing Workshop Low-Residency MFA program and lives in Minneapolis with his wife, the writer Cole Nagamatsu, their cat Kalahira, their real dog Fenris, and a robot dog named Calvino.

Emily Nemens is a writer, illustrator, and editor. Her debut novel, The Cactus League, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February 2020 and released in paperback by Picador in 2021. From 2018 to 2021, Emily served as the editor of The Paris Review, the nation’s preeminent literary quarterly. During her tenure, the magazine saw record-high circulation, published two anthologies, produced the second season of its acclaimed podcast, and won the 2020 American Society of Magazine Editors’ Award for Fiction. Previously, she coedited The Southern Review, a storied literary journal published at Louisiana State University. Stories published during her tenures at The Southern Review and The Paris Review were selected for the Pushcart Prize anthology, Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize anthology, and PEN America Best Debut Fiction.

Denne Michele Norris is a Black Trans writer living in NYC. She is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature, and her writing has been supported by MacDowell, Tin House, VCCA, the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction, and appears in McSweeney's, American Short Fiction, and ZORA. She co-hosts the critically acclaimed podcast Food 4 Thot, and is hard at work on her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter and IG @thedennemichele.

Okezie Nwoka was born and raised in Washington, D.C. They are a graduate of Brown University, and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop as a Dean Graduate Research Fellow. They are the author of the novel God of Mercy and are presently teaching and living in their hometown.

Matt Ortile is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name. He is also the managing editor of Catapult magazine, and a contributing writer at Condé Nast Traveler. Previously, he was the founding editor of BuzzFeed Philippines. He is a MacDowell Fellow and has written for Vogue, Self, Out, Into, and BuzzFeed News, among others. He is a graduate of Vassar College, which means he now lives in Brooklyn.

Nadia Owusu is a Ghanaian and Armenian-American writer and urbanist. Her first book, Aftershocks, topped many best book of the year lists, including Vulture, TIME, Esquire, and the BBC. It was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Nadia is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, and others. She is Director of Storytelling at Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned consulting firm working with social change organizations. She lives in Brooklyn.

Brenda Peynado is a Dominican-American writer of fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. Her short story collection, The Rock Eaters, was published by Penguin Press in March 2021. Her work appears in, The Georgia Review, The Sun, Threepenny Review, Epoch, Kenyon Review online, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Her stories have won a Nelson Algren Award from the Chicago Tribune, an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize; inclusion in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Best Small Fiction, and Best Microfiction anthologies, two Vermont Studio Center Fellowships, and other awards. 

Larissa Pham is a writer living in Brooklyn and the author of Pop Song (Catapult 2021). She has written for Adult, Guernica, The Nation, and Nerve. Pham studied painting and art history at Yale University. Find her on Twitter @lrsphm and at

Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.

Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation. Smith is the author of the novel Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead Books, 2019), as well as the poetry collection I Live in a Hut, 2011. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she teaches Here Be Monsters, an online novel-writing and creativity workshop.

Bishakh Som is an Indian-American trans femme visual artist and author. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, We're Still Here (The first all-trans comics anthology), Beyond, vol. 2, The Strumpet, The Boston Review, Black Warrior Review, VICE, The Brooklyn Rail, Buzzfeed, Ink Brick, The Huffington Post, The Graphic Canon vol. 3, and Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream. She received the Xeric grant in 2003 for her comics collection Angel. Her graphic novel Apsara Engine (The Feminist Press) is the winner of a 2021 L.A. Times Book Prize for Best Graphic Novel and a 2021 Lambda Literary Award winner for Best LGBTQ Comics. Her graphic memoir Spellbound (Street Noise Books) was also a 2021 Lambda Literary Award finalist. You can see her work at

Megan Stielstra is the author of Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, winner of the 2017 Book of the Year in Nonfiction from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in Best American Essays, New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Believer, Tin House, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for NPR, Museum of Contemporary Art, and theatres, festivals, and classrooms across the country. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University and is a Senior Media Fellow with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore ( is the author, most recently, of The Freezer Door, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, one of Oprah Magazine’s Best LGBTQ Books of 2020, and a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. Her previous nonfiction title, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her novel Sketchtasy was one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018. Sycamore is the author of two nonfiction titles and three novels, as well as the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her sixth anthology, Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing Up with the AIDS Crisis, will be out on October 5, 2021, and her next book, Touching the Art, will be published by Soft Skull in 2023. Sycamore lives in Seattle.

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal is an award-winning poet and first-generation U.S. citizen born in the Rio Grande Valley to Mexican immigrants, and raised in Houston, Texas. She is also an essayist and cultural critic with critical race and feminist approaches to pop culture, media studies, ecopoetics, and documentary poetics, engaging discourses of borders and geographies of power, critical race, animal studies, memory studies, generational trauma, and the archive. 

Arriel Vinson is a Tin House YA Scholar and Hoosier who writes about being young, Black, and in search of freedom. She earned her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Kweli Journal, The Rumpus, Catapult, and others. Her work has also been nominated for Best New Poets 2020, Best of the Net 2019, and a Pushcart Prize. A Walter Grant recipient, she is also a 2019 Kimbilio Fellow and 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest semifinalist.

Don't Write Alone

Catapult's popular writing series dedicated to generating new work in a welcoming, writer-friendly space.

If you have any questions, be in touch with us at [email protected].


"I left feeling incredibly inspired. I was encouraged personally by people in my field and that really shored up my inspiration to continue the project I'm working on. I would recommend this weekend for anyone feeling stuck in the later stages of a project they really want to finish."

Don't Write Alone 2018 participant

"The whole weekend was positive. It was so much more than I thought it was going to be when I signed up."

Don't Write Alone 2018 participant

“I had an amazing time at DWA and made several new friends throughout the weekend. It really jumpstarted my creativity, helped me get back into a routine of writing, and was just super fun and invigorating. Thanks for putting together an awesome event and for curating a super-smart lineup of guests.”

Don’t Write Alone 2017 participant

“It's hard to pick a favorite part of the weekend because I got so much out of every single panel and speaker you presented. I was surprised how much I got out of the presentation on how to write dialogue. I got to thinking about writing dialogue in new ways after that presentation. I also loved the discussion with the two first-time authors at the end of the day on Saturday.”

Don’t Write Alone 2017 participant

“Thought the whole workshop and weekend was just fantastic. So many awesome writers to talk with and that made themselves accessible. I loved the panels, I loved how informal it was, and I will recommend it to others and be back next year. Thank you for creating such a safe community!”

Don’t Write Alone 2017 participant

“Don’t Write Alone 2017 was a great opportunity to learn from established authors, network, and mingle with fellow writers with a wide variety of experience, and get some writing done that I had been putting off for, let’s be real, months.”

Don’t Write Alone 2017 participant

“Don’t Write Alone is one of the best investments, both in terms of time and money, I’ve made for my writing in the past few years. The access I had to professionals and decision-makers was really unprecedented and helped me to think about my fiction and navigating this industry in ways I really hadn’t been exposed to elsewhere.”

Don’t Write Alone 2017 participant

Craft Assignment