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  • Workshop
  • In-Person: Seaport
  • Adult (18+)
  • 9 Weeks

Writing the Risky Personal Essay

Apply for Scholarship
  • $540.00 Non-Member
  • $520.00 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, emotional and deeply personal matters in a way that's not too sentimental, self-indulgent, insular, or raw? Each week, we’ll look at exemplary, contemporary work by narrative personal essayists in a variety of popular publications and literary magazines and journals—including The Rumpus, Kenyon Review, Boston Globe Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Sun, and others, by authors such as Ariel Levy, Jaquira Diaz, Cheryl Strayed, Brent Staples, Ryan Van Meter, and Roxane Gay—to see how these authors do it.

Outside reading from craft books as Tell It Slant (Miller/Paola); Crafting The Personal Essay (Moore) and Writing the Memoir (Barrington), in-class exercises, craft lectures, and discussion will teach students foundational craft lessons in many areas, including: form and structure; scenes, summary and reflection; narrative and character arc; characterization; vivid description; narrative order, time travel, and pacing. We'll discuss issues of memory and psychic distance, as well as the challenges of writing about living people, especially family and friends. Depending on enrollment, you’ll present drafts of at least one essay for class feedback during the workshop, as well as share shorter exercises. Workshopped drafts will be shared ahead of time and will receive oral and written feedback from your fellow students and the instructor. Designed for beginning or intermediate writers who wish to strengthen their essay-writing skills, and those who hope to take risks in their writing.

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 in-person at our Center for Creative Writing in Boston's Seaport neighborhood.

Covid-19 Update:

GrubStreet's space will be mask-optional when Boston's Covid-19 Community Level is low or medium. When the Covid-19 Community Level is high, our space will require masks. Please check GrubStreet's Covid-19 page for the latest info on masking and Community Levels before visiting in person.

Space Accessibility:

Our space is ADA accessible with automatic door openers, ADA-compliant restrooms, desk and table spacing, braille signage, and elevator. Our classrooms can be equipped with ALS for hard of hearing individuals. We cannot guarantee a scent-free environment. For more accessibility requests, please contact our Operations team at [email protected] or (617) 695-0075.