Bad personal essays hit all the same beats and sound like a very boring grandma telling the same story we've all heard her tell fifty times, and it's like jeez, Nana, I know that happened or whatever, but do we really need to hear again about how you once saw Clark Gable outside the nickelodeon? The good news is that you don't have to be Nana!
In this six-week course, we'll read a number of novel, exciting personal essays and memoir excerpts that will help us think about the key craft elements of personal writing in fresh terms. We'll also workshop your work in class, so that each student will walk away with one freshly workshopped draft. And we'll devote some time to the ins and outs of getting your work published in a media world that isn't always kind to personal essays. Anyone can take this course regardless of experience level, but all should plan to bring a clean draft of an essay that's ready to be workshopped.
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.
- One workshopped essay submission per student
- Advice on how to approach common craft elements like plot and character with an eye towards building an interesting personal narrative
- Advice on pitching and advocating for your work as an essayist
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to do 30-60 minutes of reading per week outside of class time and should sign up for class with one ready-to-workshop essay submission (between 2000-3000 words). Students should read and give thoughtful feedback on their peers’ workshop submissions.
Week One: Discuss elements of successful perspective in a personal essay; situating an essay's narrator in a broader political landscape without sacrificing narrative or character
Week Two: Discuss writing an exciting narrative voice; developing a style of your own
Week Three: Discuss writing memorable characters in personal essay & memoir using dialogue and descriptive detail
Week Four: Discuss narrative pitfalls to avoid when writing personal essay and memoir, creative ways to expand from he-said-she-said plotting
Week Five: Discuss drafting when you know you’ll need to edit, how to meaningfully revise, pitfalls to avoid
Week Six: Discuss pitching, publishing, getting an agent, social media, career advice specific to essayists who have limited opportunities to find their footing via freelancing
"Rax was so engaging that I almost didn't realize I was learning something."
"Rax is an obsessive, devoted editor. When we worked together, I wanted to tell her to shut up and get off my case so many times. But then I realized she had made my essay good, so I dropped it."
"I've been in a writing group with Rax for over two years now, and she's consistently proven to be a highly attentive and considerate reader, whose feedback always aims at making the story the best version of what it can be. She has a surgical attention to detail—like many poets—at being able to diagnose what single line or phrase makes or breaks the tone of a particular passage. While she's a gifted editor when honing in on line-edit level adjustments or broad, plot-level changes needed to improve the work, she's also generous with her praise and I always feel more energized about a work's promise and potential after workshopping with her."
"It's an honorable thing that happened here, this book. It makes me cry, like war movies can—especially when someone makes it out and then they go back for the ones who didn't."
"Rax King's writing radiates vulnerability and generosity in such precise balance. She probes for painful and illuminating insight while offering relentless tenderness to her audience, her subjects, and ultimately herself."