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Isn’t it time you transformed your ideas or handful of unfinished pages into a finished memoir?
Completing a book on your own is an unwieldy, overwhelming feat. I spent 10 years on my memoir and I wish I had the structure and community we’ll be able to create in this year long generative class. We’ll be breaking down your book project into phases, providing effective craft lessons, peer feedback, and support for the emotional process of writing a vulnerable and urgent memoir.
I love memoir writing: finding the story, grappling with conflict on the page, reinventing complex characters, and polishing a narrative and emotional arc. After finishing my book, I am astounded at what I’ve learned: about writing, craft, myself. Teaching from experience, I’m passionate about supporting and providing a community for nonfiction writers on this challenging, but incredibly rewarding path. My goal will be to prepare you to navigate the ever-changing genre of memoir, while being cognisant of the conversations and trends in the publishing industry.
At Catapult, we believe there’s a better—or at least less lonely—way to write a memoir. Our competitive 12-month memoir writing course is designed to help you 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 memoirist and accomplished mentor, you will spend a year thinking deeply about how to build your story from the ground up. In addition to rigorous craft lessons on structure, theme, voice, POV, and other elements of the memoir, 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 Jo Ann Beard, Meghan Daum, Jacquira Diaz, Chang Rae Lee, Vivian Gornick, Nick Flynn, Kiese Laymon, Thi Bui, and Melissa Febos, among others. You will also be exposed to accessible, invaluable information about the world of publishing; I will take you behind the scenes of what writing and publishing a memoir really looks like.
This class is open to writers of color of all genres and forms of memoir 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 visitors—debut memoirists, seasoned writers, literary agents, and literary nonfiction editors from big houses and small—whose visits serve to offer students a wealth of insights on how you can best write and publish your debut. While you must be a BIPOC writer to take part in this incubator, how that shapes your writing is entirely up to you. If you feel that you are a person of color, then this class is for you. It also does not mean you must address identity or race in your work.
The value of limiting an incubator, or really any professional space, to an affinity group is having certain core things assumed true at all times that need not be debated or worked through. For example, a writer working on a memoir does not need to explain what it means to be marginalized; the workshop will instead discuss how to craft and face the challenges of publishing work as a person of color. It also provides a networking scenario in which members facing similar professional obstacles can discuss candidly how those obstacles may be navigated. As such, please respect that this is a closed space. If you are not a member of this group, please select another Catapult novel generator.
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 you find and define your story; phase two, on finishing and refining your 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 memoir 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.
Each phase will be additionally supported by the presence of a teaching fellow who is also an emerging nonfiction writer. This individual will attend and observe many class sessions, assist Anna with class logistics, receive professional mentorship from the Catapult team, and occasionally supplement (but not replace) Anna’s teaching.
Any student who applies by the financial aid deadline (Sept. 12th) and is accepted to the course will have the opportunity to apply for financial aid. (Note: Applicants who miss this deadline can still request consideration for aid, pending its availability after initial offers go out.) 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 a chapter from your memoir-in-progress (up to 25 pages), or your strongest writing sample, with a short proposed project description attached.
Phase 1: Finding the story (Nov. 13, 2021 - Feb. 26, 2022; no class Nov. 27, Dec. 25, Jan. 1)
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 memoir, 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 memoir is representing from the very first paragraph. We will study noteworthy memoirs, consider the form, and begin to tackle your specific voice and its function in your writing. We will discuss why your book 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 memoir’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 : Finishing and refining the draft (dates TBA)
The second phase will focus on helping writers get to the final page of their draft, with craft classes specifically focused on strategies for 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: Navigating the marketplace (dates TBA)*
The third and final phase of the 12-month memoir generator will help writers begin the process of thinking about how their memoir 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 novelist) who will read the draft in full and meet with the writer to discuss via phone or video conference. Students will also have the chance to discuss their query letter and other professional concerns with an agent from a highly regarded agency in a brief individual consultation. Guest speakers will include agents, editors, and book marketers. Graduation will be celebrated with excerpt from each student's memoir 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.
- 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 memoir 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
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 memoir generator is an MFA-level course, taught by a published memoirist 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 memoir generator. When will I get published?
We can’t promise that every writer who leaves the 12-month memoir 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 memoirists 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 a memoir. 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 memoir 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 memoir, and I can’t seem to find an agent or figure out the next steps. Should I take this class?
Absolutely. Sometimes taking a memoir 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 memoir. Anna has experience working in publishing and will be a valuable source.
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.
"Anna masterfully evokes her childhood with a power and grace that speak of an experience that no one should ever have to endure. This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by everyone."
"Made in China is a sympathetic, brave portrayal of the confusions, difficulties, and hurts that come with growing up between worlds. Anna Qu's writing about her journey as an immigrant deftly shows how our origins—of economic status, of country—have lasting effects on the ways we approach family, work, and self. I was captivated and moved by her story."
"Made in China is an important story told with intelligence and heart, and a study of discipline as a form of devotion—devotion to a mother, to a legacy, to our own dreams and to those of others, to being good. So much of American rhetoric is about what we are owed. This graceful memoir is about the much trickier problem of what we deserve. Which is, in the end, brightest love."
"Anna Qu has written a thoroughly engrossing and nuanced memoir about triumph over trauma and the meaning of home. Made in China brings the immigrant experience to life and makes you root for Anna. A must read."
“Anna was a wonderful teacher and I really enjoyed her class. She gave generous and thoughtful feedback on my writing and I appreciated the way she taught the elements of craft so that I could easily recognize and use them in the pieces I was reading and writing throughout the course. She also guided the class discussions with the utmost care and attention, creating a welcoming and fertile space for ideas. And thanks to her balanced approach, I had plenty of room to discover on my own while feeling supported by her expertise and insights. My class with Anna was exactly what I needed to reconnect with my love for writing and begin writing again after a long hiatus.”
“Anna provided an insightful and inviting workshop experience; one in which I was excited to sign up for another right away which I did. I found the lessons to be a great introduction to the craft. Most of all, I feel more excited and better equipped to go on and continue my writing.”