Essay Incubator

“I learned an enormous amount about the genre, my writing, and new strategies in a very short period of time. It was an intense experience at times (e.g., meeting deadlines!) — and I loved every minute of it.” 

— Tom Kiely, Essay Incubator Alum 2019 - 20

In a Nutshell

Spanning 8 months, the Essay Incubator is an intensive program for essay writers interested in drafting, revising, and publishing their work. The program is designed for all different types of essayists, including those working on essays that are personal/narrative in nature; lyric/experimental; reported/journalistic; or in other styles and forms, whether intended for literary, commercial and mainstream publications. Students will deepen their understanding of essay craft, forms and modes, and learn skills to revise their own essays while gaining practical insight and advice on publishing, the marketplace, and career-building as an essayist. Find out more about application requirements here.

The application for the 2021-2022 Essay Incubator is now open! Click here to apply. Applications are due July 26th, 2021, by 11:59p.m. (EST).

Open House and Info Session

Thinking of applying? This summer, GrubStreet is offering an informal Q&A with instructor Ethan Gilsdorf to answer any questions you have about the Incubator, including the workload, the application process, what the program does and doesn’t entail, the schedule, the philosophy behind our approach, and anything else on your mind! The Essay Incubator Remote Open House and Info Session on will be held Wednesday, June 30th, from 6:00pm-7:00pm. Register here!

Overview and Goals

 There are five major program goals for the Essay Incubator program:

  1. To draft and revise substantially, through a transformative process of reading and writing, three to five essays and prepare them for submission to publications; explore and try out new forms, styles and voices; and to learn effective strategies for revising your own essays;
  2. To study the essay in service to one’s writing goals, and to understand the rich tradition and history of the essay form, and your place within it;
  3. To understand the publishing marketplace for your essays, create a plan, and engage steps towards publication, becoming a professional writer, and developing a sustainable and productive writing practice;
  4. To understand craft, how discuss craft, and how to offer feedback at a high level;
  5. To develop a community of equally committed essayists, receive each other’s support and share in a common sense of purpose.

Student Achievements:

Writers in the program’s first two years have published their essays in many magazines, newspapers, online venues and journals, including: 

  • The New York Times
  • Huffington Post
  • Brevity
  • The Sun
  • Slate
  • Today’s Parent
  • Boston Globe
  • jmww
  • Hippocampus
  • Pangyrus
  • Publishers Weekly
  • WBUR


"I cannot thank instructor Ethan Gilsdorf enough for shepherding us through such a superb learning experience. These months with him and my classmates in the Essay Incubator have been — unquestionably — the most work-altering and instructive writing program I’ve ever participated in.” 

“I loved this class.”

"I got so so much out of the experience. Ethan never wavered in his passion for holding all of the students to the highest level of inquiry and production.”

"I came out [of the program] confident about my next steps and with the motivation to pull them off.”

"It was an amazing class and an amazing instructor and an amazing group of writers.”

"This year has changed me for the better as a writer!”

Important Dates

  • The application for the 2021-2022 Essay Incubator is now open! Click here to apply. Applications are due July 26th, 2021, by 11:59p.m. (EST).
  • Instructor Ethan Gilsdorf is hosting a Remote Open House and Info Session on Wednesday, June 30th, from 6:00pm-7:00pm. Register here!
  • Application deadline: 7/26/21, 11:59 PM (EST)
  • Accepted students will be notified by late August
  • Program starts in mid-Septmeber, 2021

Covid-19 Update

GrubStreet is planning to hold all of its classes using Zoom video conferencing until it becomes safe to meet in person in Boston. We are monitoring the public health situation closely, and while we expect this program will be able to meet in person in Boston eventually, all applicants should be prepared to participate via Zoom for as long as necessary.

Prospective applicants to the Essay Incubator or any other Incubator or Generator programs at Grub should either be local to Massachusetts/Boston area, or able to relocate in the event that the class can at some point meet in person. GrubStreet will be following the lead of health experts and the city of Boston, and working alongside other arts organizations in our decision-making regarding in-person classes. In the event that it’s absolutely safe to meet again, the opportunity will be provided to our intensive programs to gather in person. We will of course offer the possibility to participate remotely if a student is unable to attend in person for health reasons, but as with previous years, local community building is an integral aspect of these programs.


If you have specific questions about the Essay Incubator program, please email [email protected], or call the office anytime at 617.695.0075.

We are moving!

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to a brand new space in 2020?

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