Writing Our Lives: Intro to the Personal Essay Class — Spring 2015


Dates: 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9 & 5/30

Time: 12-5pm

Location: Columbia University, Morningside Heights Campus

Price: $400 — limited number of partial scholarships available, see below for detail

To register and/or ask for more info email: vanessa_martir@yahoo.com with “Writing Our Lives Intro Class” in the Subject Line. There is a $100 nonrefundable deposit to hold your seat. The deposit goes towards your tuition.


This class is designed for people who are new (or fairly new) to writing the personal essay/memoir and know they want to take on the challenge. Or maybe you’re a seasoned writer who wants to brush up on the basics. There’s room for you too! After al, Alvin Ailey used to take a basics dance class once a year, even after he created his now renowned dance school, “to remind myself,” he said.

In the class we will dig into the fundamentals of writing personal essays, like how to decide on a topic, how to start an essay, how to read essays like writers (as opposed to reading simply as a reader), how to build well-developed characters, write dialogue, etc.

We will be reading essays and dissecting them, analyzing why the author made the decision(s) he or she made. We’ll also be doing tons of writing. The final project is a 1000 word essay.

How do you know if this class is for you?

  • Have you read essays and wanted to write your own but the thoughts get lost in translation, somewhere between the brain and your fingertips?
  • Have you tried to write essays but find it hard to finish?
  • Have you wondered how writers write their amazing essays but think you just don’t have the chops but wish you did? (Side note: You do have the chops!)
  • Do you write religiously (or sporadically) in your journal and wish (maybe even know) you could make those streams of consciousness into essays?
  • Are you a writer, perhaps you’ve written poetry or fiction, who wants a refresher on the techniques you take for granted (like character development and dialogue) so you can dip your toes into the essay writing world?
  • Have you heard some great things about Writing Our Lives and want to see Vanessa in action?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this class is for you.

Price: $400 — Payment plans are available. There is a $100 nonrefundable deposit to hold your seat. The deposit goes towards your tuition.

Scholarships: Need based, partial scholarships available on a first come, first serve basis. To apply, send a letter explaining your financial need for the scholarship–i.e. unemployed, underemployed, etc. Also explain why you think you need this workshop, what you expect to gain from it, and why you think you are deserving of the scholarship beyond your financial need. Send the letter to: vanessa_martir@yahoo.com with “Writing Our Lives Workshop Scholarship” in the subject line.

One on one meeting with facilitator: One on ones are not part of this class, but if we plan ahead and our schedules permit, we may be able to schedule a one on one meeting (or phone conversation). Note that I will make time for one on one conversations during class, when appropriate.

Project: write a 750-1000 word essay which will be workshopped by both the students and the facilitator on the last day of class on 5/30. (Essays will be due to me on Monday, May 25th @ noon.) More details will be provided in class.

Why did I create this class?: https://vanessamartir.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/why-i-created-the-writing-our-lives-workshop/

Why do I continue to teach this class and reinvent it each time?: https://vanessamartir.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/writing-our-lives-workshop-winter-2014/

How is Vanessa Mártir qualified to teach this class?

Vanessa Mártir is a writer, speaker and educator. She is currently compiling her memoir in essays, Relentless, and completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings. Vanessa chronicles her memoir-writing journey in her blog: vanessamartir.wordpress.com. Vanessa’s essays have been published widely in journals and anthologies, including Poets and Writers, Huffington Post, Kweli Journal, Manifest-Station, and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle. Vanessa has penned two novels, Woman’s Cry (Augustus Publishing, 2007) and The Write Play (unpublished), and most recently co-wrote Do Something!: A Handbook for Young Activists (Workman Books, 2010). In 2010, Vanessa resigned from her full-time editing position to write and teach full-time. A five-time VONA/Voices fellow, Vanessa created the Writing Our Lives Workshop in 2011 through which she’s led more than 200 emerging writers through the journey of writing personal essays and memoirs. Vanessa is the recipient of the 2013 Jerome Foundation Fellowship, and works as a teaching artist for community organizations like East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) and Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Vanessa attended Columbia University and is an A Better Chance (ABC) alumna.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Alicia Anabel Santos and commented:
    Writers… there are many writers workshops out there. Myself, I have spent nine years holding space for women writers! But this WOMAN right here… you need her in your life. If you just a kick in the ass, raw honesty and inspiration to help finally finish that story — unapologetically! Take this workshop!

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