New Class!

How to Write and Sell the Narrative Personal Essay

Friday, November 13th, from 10:00am-5:00pm
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
15 seats max
Only 1 spot left!

What makes a good topic for a narrative personal essay? How do you focus your ideas, memories, and experiences into a coherent form and make sure your personal essay tells a story? In this six-hour seminar, we'll look at narrative personal essays by David Sedaris, Cheryl Strayed, Barry Lopez, and others, and use them both as exemplary models and to find inspiration. Then we'll examine typical structures for how to build your personal essay around key scenes and passages of reflection and backstory. We'll look at how to create a narrative arc or "plot" for your essay, and how to develop yourself and others as characters. We'll discuss how time travel, pacing, and narrative order can control how readers experience your story and how you can hook them from the first paragraph. In-class writing exercises will allow us to immediately put these concepts into practice. The final segment of the seminar will be focused on identifying publications to submit your essays, how to communicate with editors, and what a cover letter looks like. You'll leave with an outline for an essay and several passages towards a first draft.

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Ethan Gilsdorf
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
  • "Lots of Practical Tips"


  • Generate New Work
  • Craft Lessons
  • In-Class Writing
  • Lecture
  • In-Class Reading
  • Class Discussion


  • Personal Essay
  • Literary Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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