A (very) personal essay (and a class on reading and writing the personal essay)
Dear friends, fellow writers, and former students: Just a note to share with you a (very) personal essay I've recently published, and to alert you to a class I'll be teaching at the Writers Grotto later this spring: Reading and Writing the Personal Essay.
The essay is really a love story, though it's ostensibly about administering something called the "road trip test" to my then-girlfriend.
The thinking behind the Road Trip Test runs something like this: If you’re considering spending the rest of your life with someone, first make sure you can spend at least a few days traveling together without tearing each other to pieces or becoming hopelessly turned off by the intimate details of your significant other’s unadorned days.
You can check out the piece (and find out whether we passed the test) at The Sigh Press, a really nicely done journal devoted to writers and writing with some connection (however tenuous) to Tuscany. In my case, our road trip wound up outside Florence, on a gorgeous hillside at sunset. One of the most beautiful days of my life, especially considering all that led up to it.
The class I'm teaching starts April 30, and runs for five Tuesdays (April 30 - May 28). It's titled Reading and Writing the Personal Essay, and in it we'll do just that. While it's definitely a workshop in which we'll read and give (guided and constructive) feedback on students' work, we'll also spend part of each class doing close readings of outstanding personal essays by writers like Alexander Chee, Eileen Myles, Seymour Krim, Jeff Chang, Lidia Yuknavitch, and others. (Here's an amazing personal essay by Lidia Yuknavitch, while I have you, that I'm thinking of teaching this time around. Very different from my essay linked above, to be sure. Warning: contains violence.)
The class is designed not just as a place to hone writing craft, but as an opportunity to get better at what you might call reading as a writer: doing close readings, understanding what makes great essays tick, and learning how to bring some of those ingredients into your own work. One of the things that's been most important to my own development as a writer has been maintaining a pretty committed reading life, and while I don't always read as closely as we will in this class (and I occasionally have to knock off a good fat Game of Thrones book for a break), I find that doing good reading helps me do better writing, so I'm really interested to bring that practice to students with this class.
If you're interested, you can get more information and sign up here. Just hit reply if you have any questions (or if you want to stop getting emails like these from me).
In any case, I hope to see you at the Grotto sometime soon.
Cheers for now,
Find me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarkWallace
At the Writers Grotto: https://www.sfgrotto.org/
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/markwallace