In-Person: Seaport

Writing the Short, Publishable Personal Essay

6 Wednesdays from 6:00pm-9:00pm, starting June 21st.
In-Person: Seaport
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Level: Intermediate
Adult (18+)
This class is full

In this workshop, you'll learn how to write short personal essays commonly found in popular, mainstream publications. These essays are straightforward, direct and to the point. They usually focus on 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 also brief: between 750 and 1,000 words. Some essays, such as those seen in Boston Globe Magazine "Connections" or The New York Times "Modern Love," focus on a lesson learned from a significant relationship. Others, like in Huffington Post Personal, or NBC News "Think," tell the story of an important learning moment from a personal experience or cultural influence ("What 'X' Taught Me About 'Y' "). Others, such as those published in WBUR Cognoscenti, Boston Globe "Ideas" or the Washington Post commentary pages, are responsive to timely or topical news issues, Many of these essays appear in niche publications --- like Yankee, Afar, Bon Appetit, Motherwell --- based on interests or expertise in hobbies or professions: dogs/pets, food, travel, gardening; being a doctor, parent or crossword puzzle fan.

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. Over our 6 weeks together, you'll write 2 short essays, each modeled after the published examples we'll be discussing. Readings, discussion and lectures will provide insight into the craft, form, structure and other elements. You'll also complete shorter in-class and take-home exercises to immediately put into practice what you observe (and may serve as "germs" for your essays). Students and the instructor will offer oral and written feedback on all student essays submitted to the workshop. We’ll also cover the nuts and bolts for submitting your work to publications and students will be encouraged to submit their work. 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.

NOTE: 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.

Please Note: Class does not meet on July 5th and 19th. 

Class Format

This class will take place in-person at our Center for Creative Writing in Boston's Seaport neighborhood. 

Covid-19 Update: 

GrubStreet's space will be mask optional when Boston's Covid-19 Community Level is low or medium. When the Covid-19 Community Level is high, our space will require masks. Please check GrubStreet's Covid-19 page for the latest info on masking and Community Levels before visiting in-person.

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 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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