Online Class: Introduction to the Personal Essay ~ A Writing Our Lives Production


Class Dates: January 31, February 7, 21, 28, March 14

Class Time: 7-9pm EST

Platform: via videoconference using (sessions will be recorded)

Tuition: $300 including a nonrefundable $60 deposit (Note: payment plans are available)


Personal essays are everywhere these days. There are sites and entire sections of magazines and papers dedicated to personal stories–hello NYTimes Modern Love and Lives sections, Narratively, The Rumpus, Hippocampus, and the list goes on and on. Essay collections and anthologies are also booming. The fact is that personal stories are everywhere, and yours should be too.

In addition to having written and published several books and dozens of essays, I love teaching. I created the Writing Our Lives Workshop in 2010, and have since taught hundreds of writers how to write the personal essay. This is the first time I am bringing this work online. Why? Because it’s time. Because folks have asked for it. Because I want to make this class available to folks outside of the NYC area. Because I believe your stories matter and should be out in the world, and I want to help you make that happen. 


What you need to know:

* This class is an introductory class designed for people who are new or fairly new to the personal essay/memoir, and know they want to take on the challenge.

* This is generative class, not a workshop. As such, your work will not be workshopped, but you will be given the opportunity to share your work with writers taking the class.

* If you’re interested in writing a memoir, personal essay is a great way to get your feet wet. As a memoir writer myself, I can tell you that the personal essay is the micro of the macro that is memoir.

* In the class we will dig into the fundamentals of writing personal essays: how to decide on a topic, how to start, how to read essays like writers (because reading like a writer and reading like a reader are not the same thing), how to build well-developed characters, how to write and develop scenes, etc.

* We will be reading essays (lots of them) and dissecting them; analyzing why the author made the decision(s) he/she/they made. We’ll also be doing tons of writing. You will have weekly writing and reading assignments. What I’m saying is you must be willing and able to do the work. The writing life you envision requires it.

* Participants will also be given a slew of resources including extensive suggested readings lists, podcasts, etc. created specifically for writers of personal story.


Still not sure if this class is for you? Ask yourself this:

* Have you read essays and wanted to write your own but the thoughts get lost in translation, somewhere between your brain and your fingertips?

* Have you tried to write essays but find them hard to finish?

* Have you wondered how writers write their amazing essays but think you just don’t have the chops and 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?

* Have you heard some great things about the Writing Our Lives Workshop and want to see Vanessa in action?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this class is for you. Email for information on registration, payment plans, etc.


If you’re in NYC and want to take an in-person class with Vanessa, check out the Narcissist’s Guide to the Personal Essay starting on January 27th.


About the facilitator: Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and mama. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has appeared in The Butter, Smokelong Quarterly, Kweli Journal, As/Us Journal and the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, among others. She has essays forthcoming in Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, and Connections: An Integrated Reader and Rhetoric for College Writing, edited by Kerry Beckford and Donald Jones. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC, and is bringing online in the fall. Find out more about Vanessa’s relentless hustle at



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