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Course Title
Telling Your Story - The Personal Essay and the Essence of Memories


Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how to make sense of it? We all have. Writing forces us to think through our life experiences, one sentence at a time. In the process, memories become coherent and we find a sense of purpose. This class will show you how to write about something that matters to you, whether a favorite relative, or a lesson learned through personal hardship or happier times. You’ll learn how to turn an idea into an essay or story and at the end of six weeks, you’ll have a written work to share.


To brainstorm, research, formulate, and complete an essay or story on a topic of personal interest.


Week 1: The Power of Words

o Students will share why they enrolled

o Introduction to the course, distribution of syllabus

o The essay and story defined

o Parts of the essay/story explained

o Reading and discussion of a published work

Assignment for week 2: list 5 ideas (events, people, topics, memories) you’d like to write about.

Week 2: Identifying and Developing a Topic

o Introduction to topic selection (specific and personal; resolves a problem)

o Discussion of topics selected for consideration

o Students write to topic prompts

o Guidelines explained for peer critique

o Students share what they’ve written and get feedback

o Brainstorming and research

o Online exploration of CPCC’s research databases

o Reading and discussion of a published work

Assignment for week 3: brainstorm and research your topic.

Week 3: How to Start and Finish

o Getting a reader’s attention and providing a satisfying conclusion

o Techniques for beginning your essay or story

o Sample ledes; (the first paragraph of any work), discussion

o Resolving a problem: What is the point of this work?

o Cheating with a title and subtitle

o Writing a satisfying conclusion

o Sample conclusions, discussion

o Reading and discussion of a published work

Assignment for week 4: Show up to write! We are a community of writers.

Week 4: Writing the Draft

o Putting it all together. This will be a writing class with the instructor available to answer questions

o Reading and discussion of a published work

Assignment for week 5: Send your draft to instructor.

Week 5: Editing

o Students’ drafts distributed to be read silently in class

o Discussion of each draft (instructor will facilitate a peer-editing discussion)

*Within two days after this class the instructor will send each student his or her assignment with comments and suggestions for editing.

Assignment for week 6: Make edits to your draft and bring at least two ideas on where to publish your work.

Week 6: Presentation of Finished Pieces

o Short review of the main points of course

o Students read aloud their completed work and share ideas about publication


• Basic writing skills

• Access to computer

• Email account

Method of Instruction

Lecture, in-class readings and discussion

Four outside-of-class assignments:

• Prepare a list of potential topics to bring to the second class

• Research the topic for the third class

• Send preliminary work to teacher via email before the fifth class

• Edit written piece for final class


1.  Exam:  No

2.  Demonstration of Skills:  Yes - completion of class assignments

3.  Class Participation:  Yes - attendance