Online: Zoom

Intro to the Personal Essay

6 Thursdays from 6:00pm-9:00pm (EST), starting June 30th.
Online: Zoom
See Map
Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full
How do you write about personal life experiences in a way that's gripping and breathtaking, rather than self-indulgent and unshaped? In this 6-week workshop for beginners, you'll learn and practice the fundamental building blocks of writing personal narratives. Each week, we'll look at a different type or form of essay (narrative, meditative, topical; braided, collage; flash, lyric, hermit crab) and craft topic (focusing on elements like questions, conflict, and change; scene-writing; passages of reflection, summary and backstory; pacing and time; form and structure). We will read published examples from authors like, but not limited to, Eula Biss, Roxane Gay, Jacquira Diaz, Leslie Jamison, Virginia Woolf, David Wong Louie, Jerald Walker, Ryan Van Meter, Gary Percesepe, Jonathan Lethem, Brian Doyle, Ira Sukrungruang, E.B. White, and Barbara Kingsolver, and studying the craft behind them. We'll also read excerpts from such craft books as Tell It Slant (Miller/Paola); Crafting The Personal Essay (Moore); Writing the Memoir (Barrington) and The Art of Memoir (Karr), and other craft essays.

You will complete in-class exercises that will allow you to practice what you learn. You’ll present drafts of at least 2 essays to the class (or more, depending on enrollment; 3,000 words maximum per essay); these will be shared ahead of time and will receive oral feedback and optional written feedback from your fellow students, and written and oral feedback from the instructor. Feedback will be designed to guide your drafts for the next revision. By the end of the workshop, you will have completed drafts of 2 essays, and better understood the genre and craft elements of the personal essay. Note: Since the content of personal essays often reflect intimate issues, controversial views, and real-life situations, we will ensure that conversations around the work and its content take place in a safe, supportive, and respectful space. 

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.

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Ethan Gilsdorf
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
  • "Frequent Deadlines"
  • "Inspired Me to Write More"


  • Craft Lessons
  • In-Class Writing
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Workshop
  • Reading Homework
  • Writing Homework


  • Personal Essay
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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