The Art of the Personal Essay
For this writing workshop, a 25% discount on tuition fees is available for BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ writers. Email Emily (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info. In addition, scholarships are available to those demonstrating financial need.
As writers, we spend a lot of time having conversations with ourselves. The personal essay is an opportunity to share those conversations with the world. It is, as Eula Biss says, “a record of a well-stocked, careful mind working across a particular problem or a particular question.” Personal essays often stem from nagging thoughts, feelings, memories, opinions, or questions. That moment when you feel compelled to write about something makes the essay fun to write. Personal essays are about discovery, about examining something closely and trying to find meaning. It is a deeply intimate experience. As Philip Lopate says, “The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom.”
In this six-week course, students will work to shift their mindset to see essays not in terms of argumentation but in terms of discovery. Kazim Ali says, “If you know what your text is ‘about’ you are probably in trouble already.” As my niece says, “That’s like going to your surprise party that your friend already told you about.” If you’re open to surprises, it’ll be a fun party. Moths, elephants, oceans, athlesiure, Carly Rae Jepsen, Katniss Everdeen, bad neighbors, Richard Pryor, mansplaining coworkers, essayists have a way of making the everyday interesting.
As we read examples of personal essays and review the basics of personal essay writing, students will engage in writing exercises and work on their own personal essays. We will look at essayists from a variety of different backgrounds and discuss how their intersecting identities shape their writing and bring innovation to the form. After the second week, students will submit their personal essays to the instructor for feedback and schedule a one-on-one conference outside of class to discuss their submitted work. Students will have the opportunity to share their work with one another each week in a private group forum (Slack channel) and after in-class writing exercises. The last week of the course will focus on revision and editing strategies.
Whether you are new to personal essay writing or a seasoned essayist looking to reground yourself, this course will help you create and revise your personal essays.
This Austin Bat Cave adult writing workshop is limited to 20 students and open to writers of all levels.
About the Instructor
Kate Carmody is a recipient of a CINTAS Foundations grant supporting artists born in Cuba or of Cuban descent. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Los Angeles Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Lady/Liberty/Lit, Lunch Ticket, No Contact, and The Potomac Review, among others. She received her MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles. While pursuing her MFA in creative nonfiction, she worked as a blogger, assistant blog editor, and the assistant lead editor for the youth spotlight series at Lunch Ticket. In addition to teaching at Austin Bat Cave, she teaches writing through Antioch’s Continuing Education Program. In 2012, she received the Facing History and Ourselves Margot Stern Strom Teaching Award and in 2017, was selected by Facing History and Ourselves to participate in a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant-funded study to assess if peer-led professional development can improve teachers’ instruction of literacy standards. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and dog. The three of them are in a band called Dadafacer. Find her on Twitter at @KateCarmody8 and on Instagram: carmo8.