What the Program Includes

    • 90 Hours of Instruction

      For most of the 9-month program, students meet in three-hour workshops on Wednesday evenings. The majority of our time will be spent workshopping student essays. These workshops are led by instructor Ethan Gilsdorf who, along with each student, provides written feedback. Students are expected to read, provide written feedback and discuss their colleagues’ essays. The instructor also offers prepared lectures and leads discussion on various elements of the craft of essay writing. Each class also typically includes analysis of published essays and impromptu discussions about the essay-writing process, and weekly writing prompts to generate new starts on essays. Breaks between phases and in the middle of phases provide students with time to write, revise and recharge. Informal socializing out of class is encouraged!

    • 4 hours of individual consultations with the instructor

      At the end of Phase II and Phase IV, and at other times as needed, students will meet with the instructor individually on mutually agreed-upon dates and times. The goal of these meetings is to allow the writer to synthesize the multiple perspectives students have heard at the workshop meetings, identify craft issues, set goals for revision, identify target publications for their essays, as well as strategize a concrete plan for next steps. In addition to these hours, the instructor will be available for informal "office hours" sessions (usually before class), at which students may drop in and discuss their projects as needed.

    • Guest speakers

      Between 4 and 6 guest speakers will visit the program to enrich the program with their professional perspectives. Established essayists will offer their advice on writing, revision, and submitting their work. Editors at leading journals and magazines will offer inside information on submitting to their publications and the publishing landscape for essays. (In the past, editors from Ploughshares, Brevity, CatapultBarrelhouse, Agni, Bellingham Review, and Narratively have visited.)

    • Full weekend tuition at the  Muse and the Marketplace literary conference, including one Manuscript Mart appointment

      The Muse and the Marketplace has become one of most successful literary conferences in the country. In this three-day symposium, participants choose from over 100 sessions on various writing-related topics. Sessions are led by established authors from Boston and beyond, top-notch editors and literary agents, and members of the GrubStreet faculty. Each writer will also receive a Manuscript Mart session with one magazine or journal editor or literary agent (student’s choice), who will meet for twenty minutes at the conference to provide critical feedback on 20 pages of the student's manuscript. Essay Incubator students will also join the rest of the cohort for socializing and networking.

    • Party and reading

      The class will celebrate the completion of the nine-month program with a reading party. Each student will read a selection from work they produced in the program. Friends and family are invited, with refreshments and pre-/post-reading mingling.

    • Tell-All Boston Reading Series

      Students are invited to submit to Tell-All Boston, a seasonal nonfiction reading series run by graduates of the Memoir and Essay Incubator Programs. After graduating from the Essay Incubator, students may join the Tell-All committee or work on other alumni initiatives.


The entire cost of the program is $3,995. Tuition is payable in two installments. Partial fellowships are available and based on a combination of merit and financial need (see Apply page for more info). Students may also be expected to purchase a few anthologies as “textbooks”; these will cost approximately $100 total over the course of the program.

Open House and Info Session

Thinking of applying? Each summer, GrubStreet 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 Open House will be held in Summer 2022.

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