Writing a memoir can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to. In this twelve-week master class for writers at every stage of the memoir-writing process—from the first couple of chapters to finished draft—we will dissect the craft and creation of the memoir, with the hopes of better understanding how to write our own. To ensure that every student gets focused and rigorous attention on their work, this class is limited to six writers.
While you do not need a full draft to apply for the memoir generator, writers should have a project in mind and at least a few pages of a work-in-progress. The class will be built to spark new work and generate ideas as much as to refine existing material. All genres and styles of writing are welcome; in this workshop, as in all Catapult classes, we will read each project on its own terms, taking into consideration the aims and goals of the writer. Though critique will be keen and precise, we will celebrate the small successes along the way, making sure that all writers leave motivated and with a sense of direction.
Writers will graduate this class with a first (or most of a) full draft of a memoir as well as the necessary tools to revise their memoir into its clearest and most powerful form. After class ends, you will have a virtual meet and greet with leading literary agents, and every writer will have the chance to pitch their work and make valuable connections.
This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.
We will alternate weeks between craft discussions—in which we’ll analyze subjects like underlying themes, character development, narrative voice, and style, while developing a shared vocabulary for discussing each other’s works—and workshops. We will also address additional elements such as structure and the lines between fact, truth, and narrative specific to memoir.
For the first six workshops, two writers will submit 25-50 pages of their books. The final six workshops will be individual, with just one writer up for discussion. We will read up to 300 pages—either starting from the beginning, if revisions have been made to the earlier sections, or from the point where the previous submission left off. Writers should be prepared to give thorough feedback on each other’s work in the form of a typed letter of no fewer than 500 words—line edits and in line comments are not mandatory, but are encouraged.
The instructor will deliver his feedback in private meetings that follow each workshop—meaning each student gets two one-on-one meetings—and will also submit one typed editorial memo with specific suggestions for revision at the end of the course.
To apply, please submit the first chapter of your work-in-progress (up to 25 pages). Writers should be prepared to workshop 25-100 pages of their memoir draft by the time the course begins.
- Focus on developing a strong opening (first chapter/20-25 pages)
- Figuring out what’s important to the story you’re telling
- Big-picture ideas about structure, pacing, etc. for whole book
Justin Taylor is the author of the novel The Gospel of Anarchy and the story collections Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and Flings. His memoir, Riding with the Ghost, is forthcoming from Random House in 2020. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Sewanee Review. He has taught writing in the MFA programs at Columbia and Sarah Lawrence, and in the PhD program at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the fiction and nonfiction editor at The Literary Review and is part of the core faculty at the Mountainview low-residency MFA program. He lives in Portland, OR.
"Justin Taylor is a writer who somehow makes available to us just how strange we are, here in late-capitalist early 21st-century America. Taylor's stories chart a path through the truth, and the result is that FLINGS is urgent, necessary, funny, and amazing. He is a writer we need to read."
"Taylor is equal parts hilarious and prescient, capable of finding the sublime in the most prosaic, diverse material."
"This spare, sharp book—Taylor's debut collection—documents a deep authority on the unavoidable confusion of being young, disaffected and human. ... [T]he most affecting stories in EVERYTHING HERE IS THE BEST THING EVER are as unpredictable as a careening drunk. They leave us with the heavy residue of an unsettling strangeness, and a new voice that readers—and writers, too—might be seeking out for decades to come."
"This class completely opened my idea to new writers, new stories, and new ways of approaching writing. Justin Taylor is a fantastic, thoughtful instructor who runs his classes with a great deal of patience and insight. He adjusts and responds to students in a way that challenges then and supports them."
"This, by far, was the greatest workshop I have ever taken. As a reader and a writer I feel as though I have learned more this semester and from working with Justin Taylor than any other season of my career. His feedback was honest, thoughtful, and incredibly useful. In class he was genuine, supportive, challenging, and provided solutions to our writing ’problems’ that were incredibly helpful. I wish every workshop that I’d had was like this."
"My biggest fear when working with someone is that I will subconsciously try to sound like them to avoid not being liked. I did not have this problem with Justin. Because he conducts himself like a professional who respects his craft, I felt very comfortable writing in my own way, and I was free to try to work on creating my own voice. I knew that his criticism would always come from an objective place, and if I truly listened to his opinions, then I would be a better writer because of it."