Online: On-Demand

Writing the Short, Publishable Personal Essay

8 weeks online; No live meetings. Class opens on September 21st.
Online: On Demand
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

In short personal essays commonly found in popular, mainstream publications, a little thing or small anecdote illuminates a bigger thing, theme or idea. These essays typically tell a focused narrative of a poignant personal transformation, have a strong “I” voice narrator from the start, and provide the reader with some universal take-away or lesson. They're brief: usually between 600 to 1,500 words, max. Some some essays, such as those seen in the Huffington Post or Catapult, tell the story of an important lesson you learned from a personal experience; others are responsive, connecting to timely or topical news issues, such as those published in WBUR Cognoscenti, Boston Globe "Ideas" or the Washington Post commentary pages. Topics might be focused on a niche interest (such as dogs/pets, like those seen in The Bark; food/cooking, Bon Appetit "Healthyish"; or nature/gardening, such as Fine Gardening); a regional interest or travel destination (Afar or Yankee); or on a transformative experience from a significant relationship (Boston Globe Magazine "Connections"; The New York Times "Modern Love"). In this generative workshop, each week you’ll examine a variety of these essays from a variety of commercial, popular and niche magazines, newspapers, websites and journals, and learn the craft of how to write them. Note that we will not be writing experimental or literary essays–our focus will be on mastering the voice, style and form of essays destined for mainstream publications.

Over our 8 weeks together, you'll write 3 short essays (or 2 original essays plus one revised essay), each modeled after the published example you'll be discussing. Readings, discussion and video lectures will provide insight into the craft, form, structure and other elements. You'll also complete shorter weekly exercises to immediately put into practice what you observe (and may serve as "germs" for your essays). You, your fellow students and the instructor will offer feedback on your essays. We’ll also cover the nuts and bolts for submitting your work to publications and students will be encouraged to submit their work. We will also discuss revision strategies. There will also be optional, live Zoom chats throughout the class where we can discuss our projects and the writing and publishing process.

By the end of the workshop, students will understand and test the range of the voices and styles of the short, publishable personal essay, and be prepared to submit them for publication.

Class Format

This is an Online: On-Demand class that will take place on our asynchronous online learning platform, Wet.Ink. Weekly lessons and assignments open each Wednesday. Students will receive an invitation to Wet Ink before 5pm on the first day of class! All video lectures for Online: On-Demand courses have closed captioning available. To enable, click "cc" on the toolbar of each video lecture. 

*NOTE that while our handy dandy "Schedule" tab states a 6-7pm class time, there are actually no live meetings for this class! Weekly lessons and assignments open each Wednesday. Students will receive an invitation to Wet Ink, our online class platform, before 5pm on the first day of class.


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"
  • "Supportive Environment"
  • "Frequent Deadlines"
  • "Inspired Me to Write More"


  • Generate New Work
  • Craft Lessons
  • Class Discussion
  • Writing Homework


  • Personal Essay
  • Nonfiction

Commitment Level



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