Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

The Online Essay Generator: Twelve Months to a Full Collection

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Isn’t it time you transformed your ideas or handful of unfinished essays into a finished essay collection?

I’ve always written essays to find out what I think. Through my life, the essay is something I’ve always returned to. I love so much about essays: the fluidity of them, grappling with conflict on the page, trying new and experimental forms. After finishing my books, I am always astounded at what I’ve learned: about writing, craft, myself, and the unexpected journey the essays have taken me on.

At Catapult, we believe there’s a better—or at least less lonely—way to compile an essay collection. Our competitive 12-month essay writing course is designed to help writers generate and refine a submission-ready draft in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. Alongside a group of talented peers and under the guidance of a published essayist and accomplished mentor, writers will spend a year thinking deeply about how to build their story from the ground up. In addition to rigorous craft lessons on structure, theme, voice, POV, and other elements of the essay, this course will include thorough workshops that invite author participation and questions, and careful analysis of notable published work. We will study work by luminaries such as Meghan Daum, Joan Didion, Samantha Irby, Sallie Tisdale, and John Jeremiah Sullivan to explore how some of the most original and legendary essay collections were created. Students will also be exposed to accessible, invaluable information about the world of publishing. Chloe will take you behind the scenes of what creating an essay collection really looks like.

This class is open to writers of all genres and forms of the essay but is best suited to those with a clear idea of what they want to work on over the course of the year. The program will be divided into three phases, each focusing on a different element of the writing process and building upon earlier lessons. Each phase will feature guest professionals—debut essayists, seasoned writers, acquiring agents, and literary nonfiction editors from big houses and small—whose visits serve to offer students a wealth of insights on how one can best write and publish their debut.

We believe the writing process is sacred and should be protected from industry concerns in the early stages. With that in mind, phase one will focus on helping writers find and define their story; phase two, on finishing and refining the draft. We also believe that the opaque barriers between the publishing industry and creative writing classes should be broken down, and that writers who hope to publish can be better served by writing education that treats publishing like a challenging, but achievable, goal. For that reason, phase three will center on navigating the literary marketplace.

Throughout the year, class will meet for 120 hours (e.g., 40 times for three hours per session) with several breaks for holidays and “between” phases. Writers will graduate the 12-month essay generator with a substantial number of new pages, a better understanding of the literary marketplace, valuable connections, and productive and strategic work habits that will transform their writing lives moving forward.

Any student who applies by the financial aid deadline (June 15th) and is accepted to the course will have the opportunity to apply for financial aid. While we cannot guarantee aid to every applicant, financial aid awards vary between $500 and 50% of course tuition and all students are eligible to request a no-interest payment plan, whether or not they apply for financial aid.

To apply, please submit an essay from your collection-in-progress (up to 25 pages), or your strongest writing sample, with a short proposed project description attached.

Phase 1: Finding the core and heart (Aug. 23 - Nov. 29, 15 meetings)

In the first phase, weekly sessions will alternate between craft and workshop. Our in-class work will be geared toward helping each writer determine the themes for their collection, and how to best execute them on the page. Whether you’re coming into class with an idea or an entire draft, we will look closely at the beginning of your book to consider the questions that you’re grappling with, the world you’ve built and the themes you’ve introduced, and what your collection is representing from the very first paragraph. We will study noteworthy essays, consider the form, and begin to tackle your specific voice and its function in your essay collection. We will discuss why your essay collection is unique, why you’re the only one who can tell this particular story, and what tools you’ll use to do so. Craft classes will be geared towards generating new pages, drafting and outlining, and solidifying the collection’s structure, with specific attention paid to meeting each writer where they are. In this phase, students will have the opportunity to workshop once, up to 25-50 pages, and will meet with the instructor for an individual conference following their workshop.

Phase 2 : Assembling and refining the draft (Jan. 10 - Apr. 18, 15 meetings)

The second phase will focus on helping writers get to the final page of their draft, with craft classes specifically focused on strategies for assembling and revising. This will be the first meaty engagement with the full manuscript. We will establish and discuss the major themes laid out in your book, naming, unpacking, and ensuring that each part of your draft relates to the whole. Students will have the opportunity to workshop twice during phase two, up to 150 pages each time, and will meet with the instructor following these workshops to discuss strategies for revision and their progress.

Phase 3: Finding Your Audience/Navigating the marketplace (Jun. 13 - Aug. 15, 10 meetings)*

The third and final phase of the 12-month essay generator will help writers begin the process of thinking about how their collection might fit into the marketplace. Non-workshop classes will focus on writing the query letter, demystifying the literary publishing landscape, and building an author platform. Students will each have a final workshop, submitting their entire draft for peer review, and will also meet with a 2nd professional reader (e.g., freelance or house editor, agent, recent debut author) who will read the draft in full and meet with the writer to discuss via phone or video conference. Guest speakers will include agents, editors, and book marketers. Graduation will be celebrated with excerpt from each student's essay collection featured on Catapult’s website.

*Please note that some of the partnerships with Catapult in Phase 3 of your generator (for example, your graduation showcase publication and meeting with a 2nd reader) may extend beyond your final scheduled class session

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.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- 120 hours of instruction, including at least three workshops of substantial excerpts per student

- Four 30 minute one-on-one meetings with the instructor

- 20% off all Catapult conferences, classes, and events, including any residential programs and writers retreats, for the duration of the program

- 2nd Reader editorial letter and meeting: in addition to the dedicated feedback from the writer/instructor as well as members of the class, each student will submit their manuscript after the conclusion of Phase 2 to a book editor or writer who conducts manuscript consultations professionally; intended to offer a professional perspective from outside the workshop conversation, as well as practice for future conversations with editors, this reader will share an editorial letter and meet with the student one-on-one to discuss their work

- A passionate and talented community of peer readers

- A deeper understanding of the craft of essay writing and how to develop a narrative across the span of a book

- A finished draft (No class can promise that you’ll finish your draft within the year. But we can promise that if you commit to showing up and doing the work, you will be given all the tools you need to get to that last page.)

- Greater fluency with the contemporary literary marketplace

- Professional and creative insights from regular guest visitors

- Showcase publication and graduation reading

FAQs:

Why Catapult, and not an MFA program?

Catapult is an award-winning independent publisher of literary fiction and nonfiction. Books are our business: every day we work to help the stories and writers we love find their audience. Our program is designed to unite the best things about an MFA program—community, mentorship, and intensive craft analysis—with specialized and practical publishing advice.

How much does this class cost? Are scholarships, financial aid, or payment plans available?

Full tuition for this year-long course is $6250. No-interest payment plans of varying installments are available upon acceptance to the course. Accepted writers with demonstrated need will be considered for a limited number of financial aid awards. If you have questions about payment plans and/or financial aid, please email [email protected].

What is the financial aid process?

Once accepted, students who applied before the financial aid deadline and require financial aid in order to enroll will be asked to submit a statement of need. These awards have ranged from $500 to 50% of tuition, but in scenarios where the majority of the class demonstrates need, the largest awards are not likely to exceed $2000. Students are also encouraged to explore multiple funding sources, including granting organizations. Our team maintains a regularly updated list of websites that gather grants and other funding opportunities for writers. If you have questions about the financial aid process or would like access to these opportunities, please email [email protected].

Can I apply a discount code to a 12-month generator? 

We budget very carefully in order to provide financial aid to the writers enrolled in our 12-month generators who need it, while still paying our instructors, guests, and 2nd readers fairly for their labor. As a result, for these classes only, we ask that accepted applicants apply for aid if they require it rather than using a discount code.

Why does this class cost so much?

The 12-month essay generator is an MFA-level course, taught by a published essayist who is also an experienced educator with years of creative writing teaching experience at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Your tuition helps pay your instructor a living wage, and covers the cost of booking guest speakers, arranging second readers, scheduling events, and administering the program.

I finished the essay generator. When will I get published?

We can’t promise that every writer who leaves the 12-month essay generator will get published right away, or ever. Publishing is a tricky business, involving lots of luck and time—as students who enroll in this course will learn! That said, as publishers ourselves, we strongly believe that we can help prepare emerging essayists to better navigate the publishing industry, and that our program and the connections made here will increase your chances of success.

In the course description, there are mentions of meetings with guest speakers, agents, and invitations to special events. I want the details right now! Why can’t I have them?

People who work in publishing are busy, and we confirm guest speakers on a rolling basis, as their schedules permit. Agencies represented in past guest speaker line-ups include WME, ICM, Trident Media Group, Sterling Lord, Janklow & Nesbit, Inkwell, Writers House, and many more. We’ve had editors and publishing professionals from Big Five imprints including Knopf, Henry Holt, Riverhead, Penguin Press, William Morrow, Scribner, Crown, and many others, as well as indie representation from SoHo Press, Grove Atlantic, Melville House, and New Directions.

I barely have an idea for an essay collection. Is this class too advanced?

Maybe. How serious are you about the idea? If you just have an inkling, but you’re committed to coming in and focusing on that idea over the course of the year, this class might be the right fit for you. The key thing is that on the first day, you come ready to write. No one will write the pages of your collection for you, but this course can help you apply structure to your idea, and motivate you to finish the draft.

I have written several drafts of a collection, and I can’t seem to find an agent or figure out the next steps. Should I take this class?

Absolutely. Sometimes taking a collection to the next level requires cracking it open and figuring out how it works, and that process can be helped along by the insight of new readers. This class will give you a new perspective on your work and offer concrete next steps for you and your essay collection.

I’m still not sure if this class is for me. Could I talk to someone about it?

Yes! We would love to meet with you. Please email [email protected] to set up an appointment. 

Chloe Caldwell

Chloe Caldwell is the author of the novella WOMEN and essay collections I'll Tell You in Person and Legs Get Led Astray. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, Longreads, Nylon, and Buzzfeed. Her memoir, The Red Zone, will release April 2022 from Soft Skull.

Testimonials

"Prepare to shed skin. Chloe Caldwell’s essays will dare you to dissect your own life. Shot-through with sexuality and sass, her language will get up in you and turn you inside out in the best possible way."

Lidia Yuknavitch author of THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN and THE CHRONOLOGY OF WATER

"Chloe Caldwell’s LEGS GET LED ASTRAY is a scorching hot glitter box of youthful despair and dark delight. Tender and sharp, wide-eyed and searching, these essays have a reckless beauty that feels to me like magic."

Cheryl Strayed author of WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS

“Chloe Caldwell has written the ideal 'female companion book'—meaning, while reading, I felt like I had a female companion with at all times. On the subway, I had my female companion. In my backpack, I had my female companion. On the sidewalk, I held on tight to my female companion, and pedestrians would stare at her, so boldly yellow in my hands. Pretty soon my female companion took up residency in my head. She helped me process the world with sass, spite, sympathy, and wit. I don’t know what could be better than a book that allows you to be alone but to never feel lonely. I’LL TELL YOU IN PERSON does this and more. It projects the most potent afterglow, and Caldwell is a writer beyond gifted and generous. She is like a sage. ”

Heidi Julavits author of THE FOLDED CLOCK

"WOMEN by Chloe Caldwell is a beautiful read/a perfect primer for an explosive lesbian affair/an essential truth."

Lena Dunham actress and writer

"Chloe Caldwell writes with an emotional intensity that is insightful, heartfelt, and often hilarious. In her new essay collection, I'LL TELL YOU IN PERSON, she perfectly captures what it’s like to try and navigate your way through the traumatic first decade of adulthood. It’s filled with a raw honesty and voyeuristic allure that’s utterly captivating."

Powells.com bookseller

"I started working with Chloe five years ago and she has guided my work ever since. She is a generous and gifted teacher. I can hear Chloe's voice as I write, reminding me to find action, add in details and remove words I don't need. Her feedback is gentle but precise, and she has a way of building community in all her classes. You will leave a better writer, and with new writer friends. I can't recommend her highly enough."

Jillian Eugenios former student

"Everything I know about good writing I know from Chloe. She helped me get published for the first time on Long Reads. Her feedback is invaluable and elevated my writing to a whole new level. I'd be hard pressed to find someone with writing prompts and reading assignments as unique and powerful as hers. I always tell everyone, if you want to expand your writer's brain, talk to Chloe."

Vanessa Golenia former student

"I first became acquainted with Chloe through her writing, and was so excited to find that the combination of heart and discernment I love in WOMEN and I'LL TELL YOU IN PERSON also comes out in her teaching. Her edits are sharp and her ideas for opening a piece up are plentiful--she's helped me gain a lot of confidence and drive when it comes to drafting, rewriting, and editing my own work. "

Audrey Moyce former student

"Chloe's classes changed my life. She is so honest, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about her students and their work. She attracts smart, funny, open people to her classes. I've taken nearly a dozen workshops with her now and I consistently walk away feeling energized, inspired, and like I've known the people in the class for years. Chloe's guidance, support, and genuine interest in her students gave me the courage to take my writing seriously. I've learned so much from her and can't recommend her workshops highly enough."

Emily Smith former student