Polish & Publish Your Personal Essay with Chloe Caldwell

Want to learn how to write effective personal essays and place them for publication? Then check out this four-week workshop with Chloe Caldwell!

Your Instructor: Chloe Caldwell, author of 'Women' and 'I'll Tell You In Person'

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 20 students

Price: $325

Class Description

There's power in words. 

A personal essay can entertain or teach, warn or admonish. It can hold the whole of your life experience, or just generate a good laugh. There's more than one way to write an essay—­­which is what makes the discipline so fun and versatile. 

But writing personally can be difficult and questions like these often come up:

  • What will my family and friends think?
  • Why would anyone care what I have to say?
  • Where will I publish something so personal?

In Polish & Publish Your Personal Essay, you'll study both contemporary and timeless essays, and why personal essays are vital. Students will learn how to engage, move, and connect with their readers, by reading essays and experimenting with their own. Throughout class, students will be given prompts related to creative nonfiction publications and encouraged to submit. And there will be an ongoing conversation regarding the emotions that are often triggered when writing hyper­personally.

The instructor, Chloe Caldwell, knows a lot about writing personal essays—and placing them for publication. Her work has been published in venues like Salon, The Rumpus, Thought Catalog, Nylon, The Nervous Breakdown, xoJane, The Frisky, The Sun Magazine, SMITH, Jewcy, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Freerange Nonfiction, The Faster Times, The Fix, and Men’s Health. She also has a piece in the anthology Goodbye To All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving NYC, alongside writers like Roxane Gay and Cheryl Strayed. 

In the first half of the class, you'll study the art of the personal essay—where to start and how to make it effective. In the second half, Chloe will help you nail down your voice, and find venues that would be best suited for your work.

Along the way, Chloe will be critiquing your work and answering your questions in a collaborative, judgment-free environment. Students will also critique each other, to help them develop their critical voice. All skill levels welcome!

Oh, and in case you were wondering how effective the class is, here a selection of essays written in the workshop under Chloe's tutelage: 

What This Class Covers

WEEK 1: The Personal and the Universal

As essayists, ideally, we want our readers to say: My life has been profoundly different from yours, and yet I found myself relating to your experiences. This week we will examine how we can use the ‘self’ as a lens to look at larger themes that readers can relate to. Examples of when to implement scene, dialogue, and charatcers for a stronger narrative arc will be discussed.

Assignment: Writing prompt TBA in class and reading assignments “On Navel Gazing” by Jay Ponteri and “Picturing The Personal Essay” by Tim Bascom.

WEEK 2: Point of View & Voice

Point of view can carry an entire essay along. Only you can write your essay from your unique perspective of where you came from and what you’ve experienced. And what makes your voice stand out? Are you sarcastic? Snarky? Neurotic? This week we will read essays with strong voices and discuss what irks us about them, and what we love. Students will play with form using both first person and second person, after we discuss the pros and cons of both.

Writing prompt TBA in class and reading assignments "Things I Will Want To Tell You On A First Date But Won’t" by Ryan Van Meter and "Currency" by Elisa Albert.


As Gary Lutz says, The Sentence Is A Lonely Place, as is revision. Oftentimes writers get stuck when editing their own work. How do you know what to keep and what to cut? What about word choice and sentence structure? Week three will help you create a box of revision tools you’ll be able to have for the rest of your writing life.

Assignment: With the revision tips provided, students will edit one of their own essays. Readings TBA.

WEEK 4: Personal Essay Publication

In our final week, Chloe will give guidelines for publishing close to the bone work, as well as discuss how to handle scenarios that may come up when writing about those still in our lives. A list of publication venues and will be provided. Chloe will give nuanced suggestions and guidance to each individual student depending on their goals.

Assignment: Students will create a list of their ideal publication venues, make a game-plan, and maybe even submit an essay. Reading TBA.

*Readings are subject to change. Each week will include assignments to be critiqued by Chloe, as well as your fellow students. There will also be opportunities for discussion and Q & A along the way.

Goals Of This Class

  • Find your unique narrative voice to stand out from the crowd
  • Identify what makes your story universal and compelling to others
  • Find online and offline venues for your work
  • Fine-­tune your essay and polish it for publication
  • Learn tools for getting over the fear of personal writing

Additional Info

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