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“One of the most powerful voices in feminism and gender theory.” – Carol Paris, editor of Roca Editorial in Barcelona

Elissa Bassist is an award-deserving author, humor writer, teacher, speaker, and editor of the “Funny Women” column on The Rumpus.

As a founding contributor to The Rumpus, she’s written cultural, feminist, and personal criticism since the website launched in 2009. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Mother Jones, Creative Nonfiction, The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, LATimes.com, EW.com, GMA.com, ELLE.com, The Cut, Jezebel, Longreads, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Paris Review Daily, Insider, Lilith Magazine, and more including the bestselling anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay.

Formerly, she produced and co-hosted Literary Death Match in San Francisco and was the editor of various impressive books and has since gone on to be a barista.

Currently, she teaches humor writing at The New School, 92NY, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and elsewhere.

Hysterical, published by Hachette, is her first book and a semi-finalist for the 23rd Thurber Prize for American Humor. Her second book, a comedy writing craft book based on her teaching, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing.

She lives in Brooklyn and is probably her therapist’s favorite.

 

Elissa's Featured Titles

Hysterical

Hachette Books |
Memoir

Writer Elissa Bassist shares her journey to reclaim her authentic voice in a culture that doesn’t listen to women in this medical mystery, cultural criticism, and rallying cry.

Between 2016 and 2018, Elissa Bassist saw over twenty medical professionals for a variety of mysterious ailments. Bassist 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. But then an acupuncturist suggested some of her physical pain could be caged fury finding expression, and that treating her voice would treat the problem. It did.

Growing up, Bassist’s family, boyfriends, school, work, and television had the same expectation for a woman’s voice: less is more. She was called dramatic and insane for speaking her mind; she was accused of overreacting and playing victim for having unexplained physical pain; she was ignored or rebuked like women throughout history for using her voice “inappropriately” by expressing sadness or suffering or anger or joy.

Because of this, she said “yes” when she meant “no”; she didn’t tweet #MeToo; and she never spoke without fear of being “too emotional.” So, she felt rage, but like a good woman, repressed it. In Hysterical, Bassist explains how girls and women internalize and perpetuate directives about their voice, making it hard to emote or “just speak up” and “burn down the patriarchy.” But her silence hurt more than anything she could ever say. Hysterical is a memoir of a voice lost and found, and a primer on new ways to think about a woman’s voice, where it’s being squashed and where it needs amplification. Bassist breaks her own silences and calls on others to do the same—to unmute their voice, listen to it above all others, and use it again without regret.

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Harper |
Memoir and Essays

Edited and with an introduction by Roxane Gay, the New York Times bestselling and deeply beloved author of Bad Feminist and Hunger, this anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault, and harassment head-on.

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeNot That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

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My mom says I am an adorable, inspiring, and popular speaker. I connect with women of all ages, as well as college students, writers, and educators. I love to speak about:

 

Gaslighting

  • Medical gaslighting, regular gaslighting, self gaslighting

 

Women and illness (mental and physical), chronic pain and trauma (and other things that aren’t your fault)

  • How emotional pain can become physical
  • How silence makes us sick

 

“Hysteria” in all its forms

  • Historical, current, medical, emotional, comedic, sexist
  • The difference between mental illness (a treatable disease) and “crazy ex-girlfriend psycho bitches” (a stigmatized trope)

 

Voice

  • Why we hate women’s voices (and how to stop)
  • How voice is as important as breath
  • Talking cures and how to articulate the unspeakable (in terms of emotion, illness, trauma) in a society that doesn’t want to hear it
  • Advice on saying the hardest word, “no”

 

Media and Representation

  • Critique of a media landscape obsessed with raped women and dead girls (and alternative models)
  • The Little Mermaid

 

Writing and Comedy

  • How to be funny
  • Turning tragedy into comedy
  • Writing about yourself and your exes

 

Patriarchy

  • Dismantling it

 

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I CAN'T HEAR YOU: A Hysterical Talk

Why do even the most unapologetic women seem to apologize every other minute? Why do feminists feel compelled to verbalize their thoughts “perfectly”? Why do women with degrees in gender studies not report their own heart attacks for fear of “being annoying”? This life-changing talk answers these questions. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” is based on insights from Hysterical and is about how to reclaim your authentic voice (and agency and sanity) in a world that doesn’t listen to women and dismisses them as “hysterical” for speaking their minds. I offer women new ways to think about a woman’s voice and their own, like where it’s being squashed, where it needs amplification, and how to hear it above all others and use it without regret.

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Writing Seminars & Workshops

Elissa teaches hundreds of students every year and is prepared at a moment’s notice to give craft talks and host public and private workshops with new students and bachelorettes. She teaches short humor & satire, funny personal essays, tragicomic memoir, and more.

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Funny Personal Essays

Why do you laugh when you read? Because you relate? Because you’re surprised? Because life is an absurd farce? In this class we summon Vivian Gornick’s differentiation of “the situation” versus “the story” and discuss the many ways to turn a “funny situation” into a “funny story” that you can publish and self-promote. We’ll also gossip about pitching, publication, and how to look good (or at least better) in a headshot.

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Tragedy Plus Time

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. Rendering darkness lighter is hard to do, yet there are a lot of ways and writing devices to pull it off. In this class we talk about how, and then students do it themselves. Prerequisite: Students must be in therapy.

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How to Write a Tragicomic Memoir

Learn how to write a full-length book about yourself that makes readers laugh while RIPPING OUT THEIR HEARTS. In this seminar, I share how I did it and how you can, too, from recyclable drafts to book proposal to publication.

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Humor Writing and Satire Workshop for People Who Are or Aren't Funny (Yet)

We break down the short comedy piece in order to write and publish our own parodies, satires, and character monologues in venues like NewYorker.com’s Daily Shouts. Students learn—so help me, god—about premise, structure, speaker, target, deviating from reality, and other tricks that apply to all writing, including personal essays, novels, and dating profiles. By the end of our time together, everyone will have new skills to deploy on the page and at parties, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s not my fault.

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Getting Good at Rejection

Besides brutal, rejection is many things: a blessing, a dark teacher, not personal, and required. Take it from someone who knows. This seminar is for those who picked a career that’s more or less about rejection. In two hours we’ll normalize rejection by reframing it and understanding what it tells us, how it serves us, and why it makes us better writers.  We’ll also cover the easiest ways to avoid rejection; how to use it as feedback and fuel; and how to reduce rejection hangovers and work through setbacks faster. To quote Kel Mitchell in Dancing with the Stars, “A setback just gets you ready for your comeback.” Bottom line: Getting good at rejection is the secret to success, both professionally and romantically.

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Performance Hacks

An interactive seminar on how to present aloud what you’ve written on the page and make it come alive for audiences and compliments.

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Elissa's Audience

Elissa attracts feminist as well as everyday women searching for their voice and worrying about their bodies in a culture where men control storytelling, news, Silicon Valley, reproductive rights, and far too many conversations.

A big audience is patients—patients in doctors’ offices and in therapists’ offices (the most common unexplained medical conditions disproportionately affect women; and women are nearly twice as likely to be depressed as men), women who want to stop feeling “crazy” and be heard.

Overall, she seeks to empower anyone who can’t speak without fear of being labeled “too sensitive,” anyone who hasn’t been believed or listened to, and anyone who has been second-guessed, demeaned, or threatened for speaking up (and then shamed for what they did or didn’t say).

Elissa teaches and lectures at a range of public and private venues, online and in person, including book clubs, colleges, MFA programs, companies, bachelorette parties and more.

The Zeitgeist with Elissa Bassist

“Hysterical” Women with Elissa Bassist

Left Bank Books Presents Elissa Bassist

Elissa’s Events

Elissa’s Workshops & Seminars

Elissa’s Column Funny Women

Elissa’s Articles and Writing

Elissa’s Editing Services

Hysterical Book and link to press, videos, podcasts and excerpts!

Tragedy Plus Time Substack link

Hysterical Substack Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Hysterical is a semi-finalist for the 23rd Thurber Prize for American Humor

Elissa’s writing has appeared in:
The New York Times
Marie Claire
Mother Jones
Creative Nonfiction
The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
LATimes.com
EW.com
GMA.com
ELLE.com
The Cut
Jezebel
Longreads
Lit Hub
Electric Literature
Paris Review Daily
Insider
Lilith Magazine

Previously, Elissa has taught, talked, and lectured at:
The New School
Columbia University
New York University
Brown University
Washington University in St. Louis
Augusta University, Georgia
Colby College
Johns Hopkins University
California Institute of Integral Studies
Catapult Writing Program
92NY
Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Denver
Magnet Theater, New York
The Humor & Satire Festival, New York
The Stables, Philadelphia
St. Nell’s Humor Residency
Pandemic University Online Pop-Up School
Writing Workshops

Upcoming:

JEWISHcolorado
Lotus Network
Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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