Reading and Writing the Personal Essay (with Mark Wallace)

Mark Wallace



WEDNESDAYS, SEPTEMBER 18-25 —OCTOBER 2-30  | Close reading of great work is one of the best ways to improve your own writing. In this class, you’ll learn how to unlock the secrets of great personal essays and apply them to your work.

The class combines focused, constructive workshopping of student work with an examination of outstanding published essays past and present. We’ll split our time each week between providing feedback on students’ essays and performing a close read of one or more published essays. We’ll talk about some techniques that can be used to “get inside” a piece, and students will put those techniques to work not just in understanding their own work but in learning to provide useful feedback for their fellow writers as well.

Essayists we’ll read in the class include Alexander Chee, Joan Didion, Melissa Febos, Mary Ruefle, and more. Along the way, we’ll get at the heart of what makes a great personal essay tick. Workshopping will focus on what each writer wants to accomplish, with constructive feedback provided to help move them closer to their goals. By the end of seven weeks, you’ll have gained deeper insights into how great writers approach the personal essay, and will understand how to bring many of these tools to bear in your own work. You may also arrange for feedback from Mark on a revision of your essay for an additional $100.

A freelance writer based in San Francisco, Mark Wallace has published essays in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Independent, The Sigh Press Literary Journal, and elsewhere, and his feature journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Salon, Wired, and many others.


Number of sessions: 7

Time: 5:45 pm – 7:45 pm

Dates: Wednesdays, September 18, 25; October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

Course fee: $395

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