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Writing in Pieces: The Art of the Essay

With Debra Engle and Stacey Powells

January 30, February 6, 13 & 20, 2024

8 to 10 p.m. Eastern (5 to 7 p.m. Pacific)

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Essay writing is an excellent way to express your creativity, experiment with different forms of writing, and earn important publication credits as you build your writing career. The fact is, well-written essays are in constant demand by blogs, columns, literary magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and online forums.

But what is an essay? What makes an essay successful? How is it different from fiction? How is it the same? And where can you find outlets for submitting your work?

This four-week class will address those questions and inspire you with these special gifts of essay writing:

  • Writing essays requires clarity of thought and expression. You may be writing within a specified word count, which develops your ability to write succinctly and make every word count.

  • Essays give you broad leeway for personal expression no matter what your interests or personal experiences. If you want the freedom to write about a topic that matters to you, essays may become your favorite and most exciting genre.

  • Essays allow you to connect with readers and engage them emotionally. Plus they help you marry personal experience or research with opinion and reflection.

  • In short, essays allow you to write about stories that matter to you and convince your readers that they matter, too.

The skills you’ll learn in this class can be transferred to all other kinds of writing, helping build your confidence as you tackle bigger and more ambitious projects.

This class will cover the basics of essay writing—the differences between narrative, descriptive, expository and persuasive forms—and give you plenty of opportunities to write and share.

How the four-week course will unfold

Week 1 - January 30:

  • Topic/Why this class/What is an essay? /Types of essays and examples.

Narrative: Tell a story about a real-life experience.

Descriptive: Paint a picture with words.

Expository: Present a balanced analysis of a topic.

Persuasive: Convince the reader on a point of interest.

  • Come up with four essay topics in each category.

  • Share/Critique topics.

  • Homework: Pick an essay from your favorite writer and be prepared to discuss why you like the essay you chose during next class. Begin writing an essay based on one of the four essay structures.

Week 2 - February 6:

  • Guest instructor and essayist Marcia Aldrich, on expanding the form of the essay.

  • Developing your topic through research and personal experience.

  • Discussion of favorite essay from last week’s homework.

  • Homework: Finish your essay based on one of the four essay structures.

Week 3 - February 13:

  • Guest instructor Isabelle Stillman, Editor, December Magazine, on literary magazines, the difference between essay and short story, and what makes a strong essay submission.

  • Q&A

  • Share/Critique

  • Homework: Match students to write profiles of one another, and write a short profile for next week’s class.

Week 4 - February 20:

  • Guest instructor Caitlin Jans, co-founder of Authors Publish and The Poetry Marathon.

  • Writing/Homework discussion

  • Share/Critique

  • Blogging platforms and other outlets for submissions

  • Q&A


$197 for eight hours of instruction


January 30. February 6, 13, 20, 2023

8 to 10 PM Eastern (5 to 7 PM Pacific)

Please note: Our classes are designed specifically for live participation, so your attendance is important. If you need to miss a class for any reason, per request you’ll receive a passcode-protected link to watch the recordings after the course is over.

A Peek at Our Past Virtual Classes



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