New Class!

Writing and Publishing the Risky Personal Essay

10 Tuesdays from 10:30am-1:30pm, starting February 2nd
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

Heartbreak, death, trauma, abuse, loss, messy relationships: these are tough subjects to write about well, but the effort often yields amazing results. How do you write about dark and deeply personal matters in a way that's not too sentimental, self-indulgent, insular, or raw? In this workshop, you'll study exemplary work by essayists in a variety of magazines and journals—from Salon and the New York Times to The Rumpus—to see how these authors do it. At least two essays by each student will be workshopped in class. In addition to the workshops and readings, there will be short, weekly (and required) at-home writing exercises, where you'll apply some key craft lessons about scenes, summary, structure, beginnings and endings, characterization, and time travel to your own work. We'll also discuss the issues of memory, psychic distance, tone, and voice, as well as challenges related to having real, living people, especially family and friends, as characters in your personal essays. We'll look at strategies for revision, and workshop one revised section of one essay. Finally, we'll look at where you might publish your essays once you've revised them. Note: This class is for daring writers.

Want to know more? Check out Ethan's interview with Cheryl Strayed on the GrubStreet blog.

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Ethan Gilsdorf
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Previous Students Say

  • "Generative"
  • "Supportive Environment"
  • "Inspired Me to Write More"


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


  • Personal Essay
  • Literary Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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