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Writing the Trauma Essay (New York, NY)

  • Catapult 704 1140 Broadway New York, NY USA (map)

2-day Nonfiction Intensive: Writing the Trauma Essay

Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8 from 12pm-5pm


Writing can be healing. But writing can also re-traumatize, making it difficult to tell the stories that shape us. In this two-day intensive, writers gain an understanding of how the physiological processes of trauma and shame interact with a writing practice. Together, we’ll sidestep trauma writing stumbling blocks by using activities adapted from clinical practice to safely consider the structure of traumatic events. Drawing on published essays primarily about sexual and domestic violence, we’ll do a deep dive into the ways we might frame our experiences of trauma on the page for maximum power. Along the way, we’ll explore craft challenges specific to trauma, including the fragmentation of memory, the temptation of melodrama, elevating a personal story into a universal inquiry, and owning on the page our complicated, contradictory selves.

Through two days of powerful interactive lectures and exercises that help participants generate, organize, and more deeply understand their material, writers will see new possibilities for their own work. While everyone will be invited to share their work from in-class prompts, we will not workshop pre-written essays together.  

This class is not a support group. Nor is it intended to take the place of mental healthcare. But for those who have already begun to resolve physiological traumas, it will offer a stable, supportive environment to begin writing the stories that, well told, have so much to offer society.

This class is hosted by Catapult at their headquarters in New York City.


  • An understanding of how physiological trauma, shame, and social stigma interact with a writing practice

  • Exercises adapted from clinical practice that sidestep some of the common blocks of trauma writing

  • Craft tools that help writers see their stories of trauma from new angles, with new potential

  • A block of time and supportive community for generating and organizing topically-difficult material

  • A heightened sense of mission around the importance of telling stories of trauma well

  • Follow-up e-mails with an instructor experienced in trauma writing and trained in trauma-sensitive facilitation

  • Access to Catapult’s list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Day 1: 
Introduction to the class and icebreakers
Overview of the physiology of trauma, the impact of shame, and the potential for writing to heal us
Discussion of the “indulgence” of writing trauma and the silencing of our stories
Generative exercises on chronology, chunking, and fragmentation
Self- and perpetrator- characterization in the trauma essay

Day 2: 
Framing trauma essays and finding context through research
Generative activity on writing about power
Understanding melodrama: writing attack scenes and near-misses
The role of the writer in shaping cultural conversation about trauma

**This class is now sold out! Click through to join the waiting list. **