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Tragedy Plus Time: Nonfiction Zoom Seminar with Elissa Bassist, Sunday, June 2nd, 2024
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Tragedy Plus Time: Nonfiction Zoom Seminar with Elissa Bassist, Sunday, June 2nd, 2024

Unit price per

Sunday, June 2nd, 2024

Live Seminar via Zoom from 2:00PM - 5:00PM EST

Now Enrolling!

Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.

Elissa Bassist is the editor of the “Funny Women” column on The Rumpus and the author of Hysterical, a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. As a founding contributor to The Rumpus, Elissa has written cultural and personal criticism since the website launched in 2009. Her next book, a comedy writing craft book, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing. Elissa teaches humor writing at The New School and elsewhere, and she is probably her therapist’s favorite.

Get to know Elissa in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.

Tragedy plus time equals comedy, and in this three-hour seminar on "traumedy" we'll do that: turn your tragedies into comedies (or at least more entertaining tragedies) using time and many more devices.

To paraphrase Joan Rivers: Your own suffering has the potential to be very funny. And to poorly paraphrase a lot of writers: Art is the opportunity to turn the worst things that have happened to you into the funniest. Dark topics are hard to read about and harder to write about. Yet there are a lot of ways to pull it off. People listen to a joke when they may ignore a sob story or think piece or rant, so in this class we’ll turn tragedy into comedy—because if you can’t say something straight (if it’s too preachy, saccharine, confessional, or harrowing), then say it slant.

To repurpose tragedy we’ll interrogate how other writers do it and discuss the many devices to turn a diary entry into a piece of publishable writing. This class is perfect for writers who work across genres (fiction, nonfiction, humor, serious) or want to learn how.

Our ultimate goal will be to make readers laugh while RIPPING OUT THEIR HEARTS. Happy endings will not be accepted.

Prerequisite: being in therapy.

Preparation and workload: Read (and love) Hysterical (if you want). There are also tons of handouts (to be referenced during classes) and brainstorming and writing exercises (to be done in class) to bring out what you have to offer the world that it’s missing. Elissa will also provide PDFs of essays by Samantha Irby, Daniel Lavery, Melissa Border, Melissa Febos, Roxane Gay, Catherine Lacey, and more.

  • How, exactly, to turn personal tragedy into a publishable comedy (via readings, lecture, discussion, writing exercises, and infinite handouts on what every traumedy needs).
  • About structure, speaker/persona, voice & style, specificity & silliness, analogy & metaphor, time & space, new writing approaches & devices, and every comedic trick to transform one’s sad writing.
  • How to move one's gaze up from the navel and engage readers and hone a singular voice and write with confidence and ridicule DJing.
  • Every student will also brainstorm infinite essay ideas and will leave class as a funnier writer and healthier person. If not, then you took the wrong class.
  • You want to learn how to be funny when nothing is funny.
  • You're an aspiring memoirist or comedy writer.
  • You want to infuse humor into your writing, emails, dating profiles, etc.
  • You want to expand your tools as an artist.


"I loved this class. Elissa was an extremely generous teacher/storyteller. I think listening to her talk about her experience/struggles to get words on the page was the most valuable part. I was amazed with Elissa’s ability to focus and maintain passion and energy for 3 straight hours. I was completely engaged in her personal writing journey and was satisfied with spending 3 hours listening to her speak." -former student

"What did I find most valuable about Elissa Bassist's Tragedy Plus Time seminar? All of it. The instructor was extremely funny and had many excellent resources to share." -former student

"This was a fun class! I found Elissa's personal takes and experiences in both the process and in finding a home for her writing most valuable. The process seems much more manageable to me now, and I would take another class with Elissa." -former student

"I heard about via Hippocampus Magazine. I'm so happy I found Elissa's class, which was filled with many small insights that added up to a lot. I left the class feeling inspired. Thank you." -former student

"Elissa's seminar exceeded my expectations! She provided real-world solutions for rejection and included so many thought-provoking prompts. This class was so rich with information it could have easily been a 6-week course."-former student

"This class was SO, SO GOOD!!!! By far, my favorite ever of the many many I have taken with Catapult, Grubstreet, Porch, CFF, and Big compliments! Thank you!!! Learned a lot and was furiously taking down notes; what marvelous advice and stories you have. Can't wait to read HYSTERICAL and the books that will come after that." -former student

"I signed up for Elissa Bassist's Tragedy Plus Time seminar, and the readings/examples, resources, and lecture combined created a ton of value!" -former student

"You should take Elissa Bassist's Tragedy + Time seminar. Her humor, her fresh perspective, the specific writing prompts, it's all great. Elissa was thorough and delightful, and I learned a lot." -former student

"Elissa Bassist was so generous with her time and her expertise, not only during the seminar (Tragedy Plus Time), but with the handouts before the class. It really energized my current project. I could have spent another hour listening to her. As an organization, you're doing great! Everything worked great... easy to sign up, easy to access. Thanks so much!" -former student


You can pay for the course in full or use Shop Pay or Affirm to pay over time with equal Monthly Payments. Both options are available at checkout.
  • Class is on Sunday, June 2nd, 2024, via Zoom from 2:00PM EST - 5:00PM EST 

If you have questions, please use the Chat Button or contact us via email HERE.