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  • Seminar
  • Online: Zoom
  • Adult (18+)

The Narrative Personal Essay 101

No Longer Enrolling

  • $130.00 Non-Member
  • $110.00 Member

Class Description

What makes a good topic for a narrative personal essay? How do you focus your ideas, memories, and experiences into a coherent form and make sure you’re telling a story? In this six-hour seminar, we'll look for models and inspiration in essays by Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Emily Rapp, Cheryl Strayed, Grace Talusan, and Brady Udall, and other examples from literary magazines and commercial publications such as the New York Times's “Modern Love” and Salon's ”Life.” We'll examine typical structures for how to build your personal essay around key scenes and passages of reflection and backstory, and begin to map out a structure for your essay. You'll identify the narrative arc or "plot" for your essay, and look at strategies to develop characters—both the character of yourself and others. We'll look at how to craft powerful scenes and vivid description, and discuss how time travel, pacing, and narrative order can hook readers from the first paragraph. In-class writing exercises will allow us to put these concepts into practice, and you'll leave with an outline and several passages toward a first draft.

Scholarships Format/Location

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.

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. Please visit the Resources tab to access the video-conference link.

Zoom Participation:

Students are not required to turn their camera on, but are encouraged to participate any way they feel comfortable through functions such as the live chat, emoji reactions, and unmuting the microphone. Learn more about using Zoom here.

Zoom Accessibility:

We ask that instructors enable closed captioning and send a transcript of the session after class. You can also enable closed captioning at any time during the meeting. If your instructor forgets to send the transcript, just send ’em an email!