Structuring the Personal Essay: Five Strategies

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The essay can go anywhere. You begin with an idea, and as you write, the subject swells, new territory opens up. How will you manage the unfolding possibilities? Suddenly the problem of structure becomes urgent.

Learn five strategies to bring coherence, focus, and emotional resonance to your work. Whether your essay proceeds via traditional narration and reflection, braided narratives of past and present, or a mosaic assembled across disciplines, finding the structure that best serves the work can be a challenge. You must focus the reader’s attention in a way that makes logical, aesthetic, and emotional sense. We will investigate five strategies that writers use to bring order to their essays, memoir, or creative nonfiction.

The class will include in-class writing assignments to generate new work; discussion of diverse readings by Virginia Woolf, Edwidge Danticat, Leslie Jamieson, Amitava Kumar, David Foster Wallace, and others; group feedback on your work; and individual critiques from the instructor. Outcome: a finished 5 – 10 page essay. Twelve sessions.

Meets Mondays, 6:00 to 8:00, September 17 – December 10 at the Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis.

For more information and to register, go to


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