Help Icon


Course Title
Crafting the Personal Essay - The Essence of Memoirs


The art of condensing your thoughts into essay format can be intimidating, but not if you have the right tools.  Learn how to use a personal essay to capture your reader's interest, inform and share, and tie it all together with a satisfying conclusion.  The personal essay can bring the reader into your world to share your experience and values; this class will help you learn how to do this.  Three outside-of-class assignments will be required as part of the class.


  • Learn how to prepare and complete an essay on a topic of personal interest in the personal essay format


  1. Week 1.  Why write?
    • Students will share why they enrolled
    • Brief introduction to the course
    • Distribution of sample essays, both good and bad
    • Students read the essays
    • Discussion of topic, point of view, audience, introduction, development and conclusion
    • Exercise may be repeated, depending on time
    • Homework:  Come to next week's class with a list of potential topics of interest
  2. Week 2.  Know your topic
    • Students will share why they have chosen their topic
    • Short lecture on the importance of research
    • Pitfalls, which are often the result of poor research or sloppy thinking, will be covered; diatribes, generalities, pontificating
    • Additional sample essays, good and bad, will be distributed to understand the power of a well-composed idea
    • Students will brainstorm, making a list of everything they know about their topic
    • Students will identify possible outlets for research
    • If the topic is controversial, can they explain both sides dispassionately?
    • Being fair-minded is critical to winning a reader's respect
    • If there is time, research will be conducted in class using the Internet
    • Even if you are writing about apple pies, research can be helpful
  3. Week 3.  Beginning and end
    • Getting a reader's attention is the second biggest challenge; providing a satisfying conclusion is the first biggest challenge
    • How will you capture the reader's interest?
    • Short lecture on mapping and organizing content to understand how to find an introduction to draw someone into the story
    • Varying techniques will be discussed
    • Sample leads will be distributed, followed by class discussion
    • Students will consider how to write a good conclusion.  Where are you headed?  What is your point and how can you write it in a compelling way?  is there an"ah-ha" moment?  A title and subtitle can provide direction white writing.  (Sometimes you have to start writing to find out where you are going.)
  4. Week 4.  Writing the draft
    • Putting it all together:  this will be a writing class with the instructor available to answer questions
  5. Week 5.  Editing
    • Drafts of each essay will be distributed
    • The class will read a draft silently, then discuss
    • The instructor will facilitate a peer-editing discussion
    • Homework:  Before the next class, students will email revised essays to instructor (making changes discussed in-class).  Instructor will make editing marks on papers to distribute at final class.  Also, bring a favorite essay to read aloud (yours or someone else's)
  6. Week 6.  Sharing/Feedback
    • Students will receive edited essays with comments from the instructor
    • There will be a short review of the main points of the course
    • Then in conclusion, each student will read aloud an essay that is a favorite





  • Basic writing skills
  • Access to computer
  • Email account

Method of Instruction

Lecture, in-class reading and discussion.  Three outside-of-class assignments:

  • Prepare a list of potential essay topics to bring to the second class
  • To the fifth class, bring needed copies of your draft (one for each class member plus the teacher)
  • Send completed essay to teacher via email before the last class for final editing.  Bring a favorite essay to the last class.


  • Exam:  No
  • Class participation:  Yes - attendance
  • Demonstration of Skills:  Yes - completion of essay