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Your Story Matters: The Building Blocks of the Personal Essay

People tend to think that only those who have gone through sensational, dramatic experiences have something worth writing about. I disagree: not only does everyone have rich, singular lives worth exploring on the page, but the tools that make even the most mundane seeming topics compelling to a reader are all about perspective and practice. In this class, we will be examining the building blocks of personal essay writing (details, characters, point of view, description, focus, even more general ideas like Theme and Truth) in order to get comfortable with the process of writing about ourselves and get excited about the possibilities of exploring who we are. This is a generative class for new/beginning writers, meaning that it will focus on writing toward prompts and encouraging discussion of the material you share rather than critical feedback or finishing pieces. We will read and discuss personal essays and memoir excerpts, but we will also look at poetry, short fiction, and criticism as well in order to expand our understanding of what can be considered “personal” writing.

Instructor: Gyasi Hall is a writer and critic from Columbus, Ohio. Their essays “Alas, Poor Fhoul” and “Eminem Drop-Kicked Me in This Dream I Had” were both nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and their debut poetry chapbook, Flight of the Mothman: An Autobiography, was published by The Operating System in Spring 2019. Their work can be found or is forthcoming in Longreads, Guernica, Lit Hub, The Iowa Review, and The Black Warrior Review, among others. They received their MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa, and they are currently working on a book about Black people and comics. ---

Details: Your Story Matters: The Building Blocks of the Personal Essay meets Thursdays April 4, April 11, April 18, April 25, May 2, May 9, May 16, and May 23 from 6:30-8:30pm remotely online via Zoom.

Prerequisites: None

Genre: Nonfiction or memoir

Level: Emerging

Format: Generative writing workshop with at-home writing and group sharing

Location: This class takes place online via Zoom

Size: Limited to 12 participants (including scholarships).

Suggested Sequence: Follow this class with another generative fiction writing workshop or a feedback course.

Scholarships: Two scholarship spots are available for this class for writers in Northeast Ohio. Apply by April 15.

Cancellations & Refunds: Cancel at least 48 hours in advance of the first class meeting to receive a full refund. Email

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