Introduction to the Personal Essay – an online Writing Our Lives Class with Vanessa Mártir, starting in January 2020


Class dates: January 20 & 27, February 3, 10, 17, 24 

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

Personal essays are everywhere. There are websites and entire sections of magazines and papers dedicated to personal stories–hello Longreads, Gay Magazine, the NYTimes OpEds, Modern Love and Rites of Passage, Narratively, The Rumpus, Hippocampus, and so many more.

Essay collections and anthologies are also booming. The fact is that personal stories are everywhere, and yours should be too.

I believe your stories matter.

I believe your stories should be out in the world.

I can help you make that happen.

What you need to know:

  • This is a six week online class where we will examine and dig into the essentials of the personal essay. 
  • The specified dates are when the pre-recorded instructional videos, readings, assignments, etc. will be posted on Wet.Ink, the platform I use to teach my classes. 
  • The class includes two live one hour videoconferences using Zoom. Attendance isn’t required but is encouraged. The videoconferences will be recorded and shared. Dates are to be determined.  
  • This class is an introductory class designed for people who are new or fairly new to the personal essay, and know they want to take on the challenge. 
  • Seasoned writers are also welcome to take the class. Rumor has it that legendary dancer Alvin Ailey took a basics dance class periodically to keep himself on his toes. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At the end of the class, you will have the opportunity to share a short (1500 word) personal essay with your facilitator, who will give you feedback and suggestions.
  • 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:

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.

Financial Aid

Payment plans are available upon request. There are also a limited number of partial, need-based scholarships (of $100) available.

How to apply for a scholarship: Send a letter detailing the following:

  • How you are qualified for the scholarship;
  • Explain your financial need—i.e. unemployed, underemployed, etc.;
  • why you think you need this class, what you expect to gain from it, and why you think you are deserving of the scholarship beyond your financial need.

Send the letter with “Intro to the Personal Essay Scholarship” in the subject line to: (Note: Priority goes to students who have not received a Writing Our Lives scholarship in the past.)

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