Online: Zoom

Exploring Personal Essay Structures

Friday, June 10th, from 10:30am-1:30pm (EST).
Online: Zoom
See Map
Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

In this seminar, we'll look at commonly used structures, or "containers," that help give a personal essay its shape, focus, variety, and narrative drive. These include narrative and non-narrative; chronological and non-chronological; and scene- and reflection-based structures. We’ll look at classical, narrative arc-driven "story" forms (both chronological and non-chronological narratives, as well as "in media res" beginnings and flash forward/flashback structures); collage, layered and braided structures that weave narrative and non-narrative elements; discursive or “clothesline” structures; as well as other lyric forms, such as rhythmic/refrain forms, list forms, flash nonfiction and borrowed (AKA "hermit crab") forms. We'll examine such authors as Roxane Gay, Gary Percesepe, Jonathan Lethem, Ira Sukrungruang, Gwendolyn Wallace, Jamaica Kincaid, Ryan Van Meter, Ann Daum, Jill Sisson Quinn, Brenda Miller, and Brian Doyle. Using exercises, we’ll map out ideas for possible forms and structures for your own work. Feel free to bring drafts or outlines of essays in progress to which you can apply the class lessons immediately.

Class Format

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. About 15 minutes before your class is scheduled to begin, you'll receive an email from your instructor with a link to join the class meeting!

Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

  • -


grubstreet Image
Ethan Gilsdorf
See Bio

Previous Students Say

  • Lots of Practical Tips
  • "Diverse Reading Assignments"
  • "Inspired Me to Write More"


  • Generate New Work
  • Craft Lessons
  • In-Class Writing
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Lecture


  • Personal Essay

Commitment Level



Need a scholarship?

Learn more