Writing the Risky Personal Essay - Remote!

6 Thursdays, from 10:30am-1:30pm (EST), starting on April 8th.
Remote! (Live Zoom Meetings)
See Map
Level: Intermediate
Adult (18+)
This class is full

Heartbreak, death, trauma, abuse, addiction, divorce, loss, messy relationships, childhood, life-changing experiences: these are tough subjects to write about well, but the effort often yields amazing results. How do you write about dark, emotional and deeply personal matters in a way that's not too sentimental, self-indulgent, insular, or raw? Each week, we’ll look at exemplary work by narrative personal essayists in a variety of popular publications and literary magazines and journals—including Catapult, Psychology Today, Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Times, The Gettysburg Review, and others—to see how these authors do it. Outside readings, short exercises, craft lectures, and discussion will teach students foundational craft lessons in many areas, including: form and structure; scenes, summary and reflection; narrative and character arc; characterization; vivid description; narrative order, time travel, and pacing. We'll discuss issues of memory and psychic distance, as well as the challenges of writing about living people, especially family and friends. Depending on enrollment, you’ll present drafts of at least 1 essay for class feedback during the workshop, as well as sharing shorter exercises. Designed for beginning writers or those who wish to strengthen their essay-writing skills, and those who hope to take risks in their writing.

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

Please Note: This class will not meet on April 22nd (Muse Conference). 

This class will be hosted using live Zoom meetings! You will be able to participate in class via Zoom videoconference from wherever you’re most comfortable. All you’ll need is a laptop or a phone! 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 via Zoom–no need to download anything or sign up for Zoom in advance! If you have questions about remote learning, please feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more information.

For a glimpse at how remote learning works, look no further than the deep Zoom discussion of writing and literature below:

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

  • "Generative"
  • "Very Well-Organized"


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


  • Personal Essay
  • Literary Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



Need a scholarship?

Learn more
Historical Fiction: A Crash Course - Remote!
read more
Writing and Publishing the Risky Personal Essay
read more
Speculative Series: The Otherworld Without the Othering - Remote!
read more