Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Nonfiction Workshop: Relating to The Personal Essay

In this class, we’ll explore the personal essay as a relationship, one that reflects how we relate to both ourselves and the world. How do we bring the public back to the private space of the writing desk? How do our social, cultural, and political realities and histories influence our writing process? How is our relationship with our audience informed by our relationship with language? How can we be at play in structures of grammar and narrative without assimilating to what seems otherwise unrelatable? Seeing the sentence as a set of relationships, one tied to our human relations, we will write and revise with the hope of fostering an enduring relationship with the page.

This workshop is ideal for writers who are looking to explore the relationship between personal experience and narrative structure. It is open to writers of all levels--those new to writing, new to the essay or experienced essayists who want to try something new. Since we will be sharing personal stories during class time, students should treat their fellow classmates with respect, so that our online classroom is a space where everyone feels comfortable. Whenever a writer shares, we need to spend considerable time giving praise, positivity and love. We will collaboratively set guidelines accordingly.

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.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- How to befriend your own life stories, and eventually, how to let an audience into your drafts

- How to use small, ordinary details to open up into vast, complex stories of our lives

- Greater familiarity with foundational personal essays and readings on craft

- Experience in the various methods of approaching a personal essay

- Careful, detailed peer and instructor feedback on two submissions

- A one-on-one, private conference with the instructor

- Supportive community with which to share personal stories and deepen your relationship to the page

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

This class will work towards a 10-30 double-spaced page final portfolio. We will be writing throughout – doing in-class writing exercises every class and building upon them for homework, a total of 3-4 draft pages per week. This writing will be shared in the workshopping portion of our sessions. Students should be prepared to give feedback to their classmates in a respectful, engaging, and open-minded manner. 

COURSE SKELETON:

Week One: Essay as a Relationship with Self (Introductions, Scheduling, Demo Workshop)

Week Two: Memories and Personal Essay Overview (workshop group 1)

Week Three: Habits and Point of View (workshop group 2)

Week Four: Space and Narrative Structure (workshop group 3)

Week Five: Emotion and Braided Narratives (workshop group 4)

Week Six: Public and Private and Plot (workshop group 5)

Nina Sharma

Nina Sharma’s writing has been featured in journals such as Electric Literature, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Longreads, and The Margins. Her most recent essay, "Shithole Country Clubs," has been named an Editors' Pick at Longreads. She studies comedy at the Magnet Improvisation Theater and is part of the all-South Asian women improv team, "Not Your Biwi." Nina is formerly the Programs Director at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. She teaches at Barnard College and leads her workshop “No-Name Mind: Stories of Mental Health from Asian America” across New York City. 

Testimonials

“‘No Name Mind’ has pushed me to keep writing. It showed me that there is a community of people that I trust to understand my writing as well as my background. I think I would have given up on my dream of being a writer if I hadn’t gotten in to this workshop. It’s changed my life so positively.”

former student of "No Name Mind"

“‘No Name Mind’ was life-changing! I learned to go deeper into risk-taking and to write the thing that scares me…I had to go deep to come out the other end with hope.”

former student of "No Name Mind"

“‘No Name Mind’ has pushed me to keep writing. It showed me that there is a community of people that I trust to understand my writing as well as my background. I think I would have given up on my dream of being a writer if I hadn’t gotten in to this workshop. It’s changed my life so positively.”

former student of "No Name Mind"

“I think I would have given up on my dream of being a writer if I hadn’t gotten in to this workshop. It’s changed my life so positively.”

former student

“I was able to learn about a whole new genre of writing that does not fit one traditional form. This really inspired me to be more experimental with my work and expand what I thought I could do with my writing.”

former student

“Nina was an amazing teacher who taught us how to write about the hard things in an emotional and safe way.”

former student

“Told in terse and direct language, this story draws a number of surprising portraits of people who are too often represented as limited stereotypes. That said, the story achieves the larger goal of speaking to our ability to endure, and our need to cross cultural boundaries to grow and thrive.”

Jeffery Renard Allen regarding Sharma's essay “The Way You Make Me Feel”

“I’m knocked out by it. Angry, heartsick, and chilled to the bone, by the logic tying The Walking Dead’s flagrant and embedded racism to the Vincent Chin case.[The] ending is bold too and right, [i]t so captures the literal and figurative business of being a threatened bystander and a target. And the last line is perfect.”

Margo Jefferson regarding Sharma's essay “Not Dead”

“While @realDonaldTrump golfs and your faithful @WhiteHouse press pool waits here nearby, I'm absorbing this relevant piece of writing by @nsharmawriter.”

Steve Herman of Voice of America regarding Sharma's essay “Shithole Country Clubs”