Please note that this is an online workshop conducted via Zoom. Participants will be provided information on how to join the online sessions.
Much good essay writing is the articulation of lived thought, a balance between vividly conveying an experience to a reader on its own terms and making some sense or significance out of that experience. This class will address the fundamentals of the personal essay from the premise that good writing is good thinking and that both are grounded in acute observation of one’s own predilections and of the world. With this premise in mind we’ll explore the relationship between imagery and abstraction, summary and scene, and how to bring these supposed binaries into synergy. The class will have both reading and writing assignments. We will read a variety of published examples of the form, each student will produce one essay to be workshopped in class, and students will carefully read one another’s drafts in order to provide constructive feedback during workshop. Given the unusual event of this workshop being conducted online, we will be figuring out some of the niceties of online etiquette as we go along, erring on the side of extending grace and respect. That said, in a Personal Essay class, writers often include intense personal experiences in their workshop submissions, and it is important to be mindful in how we handle those inclusions. All sorts of wonderful insights and moments of great care and mutual support are possible in a creative writing workshop, and these need not be mutually exclusive with good, honest, constructive criticism. What is important is that readers realize the need to be sensitive in their wording while also not withholding the honest criticism which all serious writers desire. Writers must understand that it is their writing that is being critiqued—not their experiences, and not themselves—and be brave.