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  • Workshop
  • Online: Zoom
  • Adult (18+)
  • 11 Weeks

Writing and Publishing the Risky Narrative Personal Essay

No Longer Enrolling

  • $715.00 Non-Member
  • $685.00 Member

Class Description

Heartbreak, death, trauma, abuse, addiction, divorce, loss, messy relationships, childhood, life-changing experiences: these are tough subjects to write about well, but the effort often yields amazing results. How do you write about dark and deeply personal matters in a way that's not too sentimental, self-indulgent, insular, or raw? Each week, we’ll look at exemplary work by narrative personal essayists in a variety of magazines and journals—including Salon, Boston Globe Magazine, XOJane, the New York Times, The Rumpus, Tin House, and others—to see how these authors do it. You’ll model your own essays after these publications, with a mind toward submitting them for publication once the class is over.

Readings, short exercises, craft lectures, and discussion will teach students foundational craft lessons in many areas, including: brainstorming fruitful topics; mapping out essay structure; writing scenes and passages of reflection and backstory; identifying a narrative arc or "plot"; developing characters; writing vivid description; managing time travel, pacing, and narrative order; and using the retrospective narrator. We'll discuss issues of memory and psychic distance, as well as the challenges of writing about living people, especially family and friends. You’ll present work at least twice during the workshop, and we’ll also look at strategies for revision. Finally, we'll look at how to submit essays for publication once you've revised them, and which publications publish what kinds of personal essays.

Designed for beginning writers or those who wish to strengthen their essay-writing skills, this class is for those who hope to take risks in their writing.

Want to know more? Check out Ethan's interview with Cheryl Strayed on GrubWrites.

Did you know that we have scholarships available for all GrubStreet classes? To apply, click the "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button in the top right corner of this page. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your scholarship application and await our Scholarship Committee's decision before registering for the class. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

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!