PERSONAL ESSAY AND MEMOIR
NEXT CLASSES FEBRUARY 23-24 IN NEW YORK CITY AND MARCH 2-3 IN LOS ANGELES
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.
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 class runs Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm each day and includes light breakfast and catered lunches. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and snacks are available at all times.
Each weekend features visits from writers and industry professionals. Guests have included authors Kate Bolick, Nina Burleigh, Cathi Hanauer, Heather Havrilesky, Julie Klam, Tim Kreider, Jillian Lauren, and Dinah Lenney. We've also had visits from Brettne Bloom, literary agent at The Book Group, and Sari Botton, essays editor of Longreads. More amazing speakers always around the corner!
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.
NYC: My apartment in upper Manhattan. Phoebe the Saint Bernard most likely in attendance.
Los Angeles: private home in Studio City
New York City: February 23-24, 2019 Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm (application deadline 1/28)
Los Angeles: March 2-3, 2019 Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm (application deadline 2/4)
$1200 per person, $300 deposit required upon acceptance
Send no more than 20 pages of personal writing along with a note explaining your creative and professional goals. To go ahead and apply, email your submission and a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or for more info, please submit your question using our Contact form below.
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.)