How to Write a Tragicomic Memoir with Elissa Bassist

Learn how to transform your tragedies into comedies—or at least make your tragedies more entertaining—with an acclaimed author and humourist. A signed copy of the instructor's memoir Hysterical is included with the class.

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March 4, 2023
Saturday, 2pm–5pm EST (11am–2pm Pacific)

Writing a book about yourself can be thrilling and empowering. It can also be horrifying and humbling. Just ask Elissa Bassist. A professional comedy writer and sad essayist, she spent 11 years working on Hysterical, her critically acclaimed book about losing and reclaiming her voice both figuratively and literally. Now, she wants to share every hard-earned lesson about writing and selling a personal tragicomedy. In this one-day seminar, writers will learn how to transform their tragedies into comedies (or at least more entertaining tragedies), how to balance the two, and how to survive the “I quit” episodes in trying.

Each attendee will receive a signed copy of Elissa’s book as text to dissect the delicate art of when to make readers laugh and when to rip out their hearts. With radical transparency, Elissa will open her notebooks and share her rejection letters to show how, exactly, she revised her manuscript without sacrificing her vision. She’ll also lead the class in brainstorming exercises to help crack your own narrative, and will save time for questions about her book, her process, and her life.


During the webinar, you will:

  • Learn how to get total strangers interested in reading your life story
  • Brainstorm exercises for developing your personal narrative and universal themes
  • Participate in exercises and pep-talks for persevering
  • Receive handouts on what every tragicomic memoir needs
  • Get a signed hardcover copy of Hysterical: A Memoir by Elissa Bassist


After checkout, you’ll receive a receipt with a link to download your tickets, which will include Zoom passcodes and additional webinar information. You will also receive an emailed reminder a few days before the event.


This webinar is designed for live participation but a recording of the webinar will be provided to all registrants to stream if they’re unable to attend in full or wish to view it again. Closed captioning is also available for both live and recorded video, however, it’s auto-generated and subject to error.


Hysterical is a memoir of a woman’s voice—how it develops (or doesn’t) in a culture where men talk and women are supposed to shut up. The expectation of a woman’s silence made Elissa Bassist sick. Between 2016 and 2018 Bassist saw over twenty medical professionals for a variety of mysterious ailments. She had what millions of American women had: pain that didn’t make sense to doctors, a body that didn’t make sense to science, a psyche that didn’t make sense to mankind, and a voice that dogs could hear but people couldn’t. Hysterical shows how everyone and everything, from doctors to television, expect the same from a woman, less is more. Which makes it hard to “just speak up” and “burn down the patriarchy.” And then our silence hurts us more than anything we could ever say.


Elissa Bassist is the editor of the “Funny Women” column on The Rumpus and the author of the award-deserving memoir Hysterical. As a founding contributor to The Rumpus, she’s written cultural and personal criticism since the website launched in 2009. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Creative Nonfiction, and more, including the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay. She teaches tragicomic writing at The New School, Catapult, 92NY, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and she is probably her therapist’s favourite.

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