Essay Incubator

“Wow, the Essay Incubator! What a ride. My facility with craft went from 0 to 60, my understanding of the genre has been magnified by a thousand, my comprehension of literary magazines and publishing is stronger, and my willingness to submit my work exceeds the goals I had going into this experience.”

—Judy McClure, Essay Incubator Alum 2020-21

“It's been amazing to see behind the curtain with regards to submitting and publishing. The whole process used to feel so mysterious and insurmountable to me, but after doing this program I understand how the industry works, and it feels totally manageable--even exciting!”—Sarah Grimes, Essay Incubator Alum 2020-21

“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 9 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.  The 2021-2022 program will meet on Wednesday nights, from 6:00pm-9:00pm. Find out more about application requirements here.

The application for the 2021-2022 Essay Incubator is now closed. All applicants can expect to hear from us by late August.

Open House and Info Session

Thinking of applying? Each summer, GrubStree offers 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 next Essay Incubator Remote Open House and Info Session will be held in Summer 2022.

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
  • Boston Globe Magazine
  • jmww
  • Hippocampus
  • Pangyrus
  • Publishers Weekly
  • WBUR Congniscenti
  • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
  • Newsweek
  • Herstry
  • Literary Mama
  • The Independent
  • 805Lit+Mag
  • Chautauqua


"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!”

“[The] program is amazing. Ethan is really wonderful. … The dedication and brilliance of the students make this class work.”

"What a wonderful community of writers and connection in a time when there was so little of that. I appreciate the space that Ethan encouraged and created. I felt I was able to be more vulnerable in my writing as the year went on and I realized how much more open I could be.”

"I loved the incubator. Honestly, one of the most satisfying learning experiences I have had. I understand myself as a writer, have a good grasp on submitting to literary journals, and have figured out a system for tracking my work. Pretty amazing.”

"It was amazing watching the other students learn how to talk about craft as we progressed through the program. By the end of the 8-months, I felt like I was getting feedback from 10 different professors.”

"Ethan is a phenomenal instructor.”

"Ethan is simply terrific. His goal for our success is palpable in the classes.”

“The incubator is really immersive. You're reading and thinking about writing even when you're not in class. ... I'm leaving the incubator with new pieces to continue to refine, ideas for revisions of older pieces, and pieces that are ready to think about sending out soon.”

"I would've gladly spent years in the program.”

Important Dates

  • The application for the 2021-2022 Essay Incubator is now closed. All applicants can expect to hear from us by late August.
  • Instructor Ethan Gilsdorf will hosting the next Open House and Info Session in the summer of 2022.
  • The application deadline was 7/26/21, 11:59 PM (EST)
  • Accepted students will be notified by late August
  • Program starts Septmeber 15, 2021 and ends on May 18th

Covid-19 Update

It is likely that the Essay Incubator will meet in person in the fall, at our new home at 50 Liberty Dr. in Boston. Prospective applicants to the Essay Incubator or any other Incubator or Generator programs at Grub should either be local to the Massachusetts/Boston area, or able to relocate in the event that the class can 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. 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.

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