This advanced level workshop is for those who have some experience writing personal essays, whether or not they’ve yet ventured into long-form. In this weekend intensive class, you’ll develop a few ideas for long-form personal essays, complete one (for the purposes of this class, 2,500-3,000 words), and learn how to pitch effectively. The class will workshop one another’s ideas, and participants will be paired to give feedback on each other’s work. The instructor will provide feedback throughout, and give detailed notes on one final essay. At the end of the weekend, writers will leave with a stronger sense of how to write personal essays that will entice editors and readers to begin reading, and keep reading — as well as a completed draft of a new piece.
In our Saturday morning session, we will do exercises to generate ideas, and then workshop those ideas. Then we’ll do some in-class timed writing to generate sections, and discuss how those might be threaded together.
In the second and third sessions on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, as a group and in pairs, students will discuss portions of their writing and ideas for developing their essays further. In the Sunday morning session, we will also discuss editing pieces to create tension that pulls readers along, and cutting parts that make the piece lag (even if they may be favorite parts).
During the final Sunday afternoon session, each participant will read aloud a portion of their essay for class feedback. We’ll also discuss publications and websites to pitch, the best approaches to pitching editors, and common pitfalls to avoid.
Within a week after the workshop, students will submit one edited final essay to the instructor, who will give notes on each within a few weeks.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on ideas, drafts, editing and where and how to pitch
- Detailed instructor notes on one essay
- Gain greater confidence in knowing what stories and perspectives of your own might makes a good long-form personal essays, what parts should be left out, and how to to pace them
- Advice on pitching, and avoiding common pitching pitfalls
- Learn how to make your personal essays entice editors and readers to begin reading — and keep reading
Sari Botton is a writer and editor living in Kingston, New York. She is the former Essays Editor for Longreads, and edited the award-winning anthology "Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving NY" and its New York Times-Bestselling follow-up, "Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for NY." She teaches at Catapult and in the MFA program at Bay Path University. In the past she has taught in the journalism department at SUNY at Albany and the adult education program at SUNY Ulster.
Photo credit to Sylvie Rosokoff
"I invited Sari Botton to teach one morning at a weeklong workshop I was conducting because I’d had Sari as a teacher a few years before and knew how well she is able to coax the stories her students need to tell, how gently she moves them toward the telling details, the meaning, their truth. At the workshop I had her visit, she presented an exercise to help people decide on a topic that’s contemporary, important to the culture at large and to them in particular. It was a brilliant exercise that not only helped attendees come up with a topic but how to proceed in crafting a long-form essay from an idea or an opinion they are passionate about. Brilliant. Which is the word, if I only had one to choose, I’d use to describe Sari’s teaching."
"Sari Botton is an editor who cradles your heart with one hand and helps you sort through your thoughts and ideas with the other. She is a writer's dream editor because she treats you and your words with respect throughout the entire process, approaches revisions as a collaborative effort and makes you feel confident that you're publishing the best piece possible."
"Sari Botton works magic on words. On a few occasions, she's taken my messy rambling, and with her keen editing, turned them into essays I still get compliments on. The gift of a good editor is underrated, and Sari's efficiency and sharp intelligence are invaluable."
"I’ve loved Sari Botton’s writing for as long as I can remember. She has a way of taking difficult, even brutal, subjects and conferring upon them an unlikely serenity. There is an intrinsic grace to her work that always leaves me feeling comforted even if she’s taken me down a rocky path. She knows what she’s doing; that’s for sure."
"Sari Botton is a force. For years she's written the killer Rumpus interview column, “Conversations With Writers Braver Than Me,” though it's a tall order, because she is one of the bravest writers I know. She’s tackled topics like abortion, sexism in Jewish divorce, childlessness, hysterectomy, and misogyny in medicine with grace, honesty, and tremendous heart for the likes of Glamour, The New York Times, and Harper’s Bazaar. I'll read anything she ever writes."
"Sari Botton has a knack for knowing what I'm trying to say, and helping me to say it far more eloquently than I could have otherwise."