I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that Meghan Daum's workshop changed my life. After years of traditional writing workshops where I was taught all the conventional wisdom about writing, Meghan helped me see my work from an entirely different angle - one that has me more excited about my writing than I've been in a long time. And it was obvious how much she cared about making sure that, by the end of the workshop, we were all truly that much closer to launching our careers. Any writer of personal nonfiction would have to be an idiot not to jump at an opportunity like this.
— Dani F, Summit, NJ
APPLY BY June 1
Why A Private Workshop:
Whether it’s a short personal essay or a book-length memoir, writing about yourself is a tricky thing, Get it wrong and you can be branded a solipsist, a whiner, a shameless exploiter of yourself and others, or, gasp . . . confessional. On the other hand, get it right and you can touch readers in ways you didn’t think possible.
I've been lucky enough to forge a career around personal writing. It’s by no means the only kind of work I do, but it’s what readers tend to remember the most. Part of my success was due to timing. When I started out, I had the luxury of taking as long as I needed to get something right and of working with topnotch editors that could make my writing even better. Readers, too, read more carefully and with greater generosity of spirit. There were no comment boards, no social media, no bloggers ready to rip my work apart before they’d even read it. Thanks to all of this, I took risks in my writing. Without constantly looking over my shoulder in anticipation of criticism or a Twitter smackdown, I was able to wrestle with sensitive topics and express complicated and often controversial ideas. I was able to write from a place of vulnerability but also control.
In the years since, I've had the privilege of helping hundreds of students find their own voices, excavate their most original and daring ideas and tell their stories with the kind of energy, honesty and craft that will help take them to the next artistic and professional levels. Now I'm offering that guidance in a private, weekend-long workshop in my home.
Who It’s For:
Intermediate to advanced writers. These distinctions are difficult to quantify, but it would be great if you’ve spent at least a few years thinking seriously about your writing and doing as much of it as you can.
Maybe you’re working on a book length memoir. Maybe you have a draft of a personal essay you’re looking to polish. Maybe you have detailed notes for a project and need guidance on how to shape those notes or what form the project should take. In any of these cases, you could benefit from the workshop.
You need not have published, but a desire to be published in the future and a familiarity with the workshop format is a plus. (You’ll be expected to have read your classmates’ submissions and come prepared with constructive, thorough feedback.)
Space is limited space and the class is admissions based. Please send no more than 20 pages of personal writing along with a note explaining your creative and professional goals.
What You’ll Get Out Of It:
Think of this as a workshop combined with an extensive, free-ranging and highly interactive craft talk lead by me (plus maybe a special guest or two). It is not “generative.” That is to say that other than a few short exercises you will not be generating any new writing on the premises. The goal is to come out of the weekend with new ideas, a roadmap for making your pages as good as they can be and maybe even a new and different sense of yourself as a writer.
Your pages will receive a solid hour of discussion in the workshop format. As fruitful as that discussion should be, it’s my experience in courses like these that inspiration is just as likely to happen during spontaneous conversations as during workshop discussions. So think of it as one hour of focused critique of your pages and 15 more hours of fascinating and equally fruitful conversations with fellow writers (sense of humor is a must, by the way).
The weekend includes a restaurant-catered dinner Friday evening, plus lunch Saturday and Sunday. Coffee, soft drinks and snacks available at all times.
My apartment in upper Manhattan. Air conditioned, comfy seating, nice views, close to the subway. Phoebe the Saint Bernard most likely in attendance.
June 22-24, 2018 Friday 6-9pm Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm
$1600 per person, $300 deposit required upon acceptance
How to apply:
Application deadline May 29 (notification by June 1).
Application is simple: Send no more than 20 pages of personal writing along with a note explaining your creative and professional goals.
For more info, click the contact button above. To go ahead and apply, email your submission and note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meghan Daum is the author of four books, most recently the collection of original essays The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, which won the 2015 PEN Centre Award for Creative Nonfiction. She is also the editor of the New York Times bestseller Selfish-Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids. She was a recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim fellowship and a 2016 NEA fellowship. From 2005 to 2016 she was an opinion columnist for The Los Angeles Times, to which she still contributes occasionally. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue and The Atlantic, among other publications.
Meghan is a member of the adjunct faculty in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. In the spring of 2017 she was the Bedell Distinguished Visiting Writer in the graduate Nonfiction Writing Program at The University of Iowa. She has taught essay and memoir workshops at The Aspen Writers’ Festival, The Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference, The Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop, and The New York Times School of Education among many other places.
From 2016 to 2018, Meghan wrote the Egos column in The New York Times Book Review. This column reviewed new memoirs and taught her a lot about what works and what doesn’t when writing about oneself. (Lesson one: sometimes a personal essay does the job far better than a whole book could ever do.)
Here's what students had to say about the workshop.
Meghan's workshop was an incredible experience for me. The group feedback on what I'd written would've been useful on its own, but collectively editing the essays of my peers—restructuring or refocusing them, helping each writer discover the piece she needed to write—was equally instructive. Further, the insight from Meghan and two special guests, both of whom have thrived in publishing, gave all of us a deeper understanding of the mechanics of publishing a book, as well as some essential tips to find our own version of success. I've already sung Meghan's praises to various friends in media; if you're in need of some focused time and attention on the essay or book or reflection that's bursting out of you, I can't recommend this workshop highly enough.
— Caty G, Brooklyn, NY
Meghan Daum is the teacher/mentor every writer hopes to work with. She has a gift for understanding the essence of each writer’s work and for helping writers shape their narratives. Her weekend workshop was filled with talented and supportive writers who immediately connected with each other. I am so fortunate to have worked with Meghan. My writing benefitted enormously from the direction she gave me and I emerged from the weekend with bonds to a wonderful group of fellow writers.
— Melanie A., Haworth, NJ
It was a wonderful experience to be part of such a collaborative, intimate workshop. In addition to really digging in to projects that we were working on and the technical craft of memoir and essay writing, it also covered the more practical elements of publishing: how to query, what agents and publishers are looking for, and the current market for personal essays. I found all of it incredibly valuable.
— Meghan L., Chicago, IL
I've been a long time reader of Meghan's work and jumped at the opportunity to take a workshop with her. The experience was invaluable to me as a professional writer and I walked away feeling more confident and inspired. I'd highly recommend this workshop for writers of all levels who want to learn more about the industry and receive specific feedback on personal essays.
— Megan W., New York, NY
The workshop was everything I hoped it would be and more. I have to admit I was intimidated by the fact that I seemed to be the only unpublished "non-writer" in the room, but Meghan gathered such a wonderfully talented group of women, each in her own phase of work, that I was fully distracted away from my own inadequacies and instead learned a tremendous amount from everyone. Even if it is never published, Meghan and the others gave me exactly what I needed to make my essay something that I will always be proud of.
— Monica H., Hoboken, NJ
The workshop was such a magical experience. The apartment is beautiful, the food was great, and the other writers were terrific. Meghan’s insights and suggestions so clarifying, and Phoebe was the perfect touch.
— Patricia R, Queens, NY