The personal essay is a uniquely playful and liberating literary form. It’s fun, but not easy. More craft and conscious shaping is involved than people realize. We’ll read and discuss essays from Phillip Lopate’s Art of the Personal Essay and other examples of the form. We’ll do in-class exercises designed to help writers cultivate the ability to follow and record the undulations of their own thinking. Working in stages, we’ll each produce one substantial essay, offering one another constructive criticism and encouragement along the way.
A lot of sensitive personal material will (necessarily) be aired in this workshop, and we’ll all do our best to create a climate of trust, respect, and confidentiality. But in no way should the class be mistaken for group therapy. Our emphasis will always be on how best to convert experience into language.