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Online Personal Essay Writing Workshop: Essay Structures

Sheila Bender

Writing the Personal Essay: Using Traditional Rhetorical Forms to Shape Life Experience for the Page  by Sheila Bender

START DATE: Wednesday, April 4, 2018

END DATE: Wednesday, May 9, 2018

DURATION:  6 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  There are eight rhetorical forms that can help personal essayists shape their experience toward insight and discovery. In this class participants will study four of the forms and produce one essay per week for the first four weeks. In the last two weeks, participants will post revisions of two of their essays. A future class will examine the second four of the forms.

Each week the instructor will offer posts that discuss the forms and present sample essays, as well as offer a “write” question for using each particular form. Each week’s lesson includes exercises for creating the new essays. Once the participants post their weekly essays, the instructor and classmates will respond to the draft using an empowering three-step response method meant to foster successful revision.

COURSE OBJECTIVES:

To help writers
  • gain dexterity with the craft of creative nonfiction
  • find new ways of examining personal experience
  • borrow strategies for writing that foster originality
  • find insight and discovery in their writing
  • produce four essays each employing a different rhetorical form

I have taken several online courses with relatively famous women writers, and you have been the most giving and involved with genuine feedback and follow-through. I thank you for that. I have learned from reading your remarks to others and the assignments have been thought-provoking and challenging—just the right mix for an aspiring writer. ~ Lori Talarico

Sheila, I will take every possible class you teach that I can get to. Your insight, knowledge, and incredible warmth and encouragement made our class the highlight of all those I’ve ever taken. Can’t thank you enough. ~ Shirley Clukey

. . . this has been a very productive class for me. I’ve learned a lot and feel like I have grown a lot in the process. ~ Margaret Riordon

What I am particularly struck by with Sheila is that she presents a great comforting wisdom from her background and experience; yet she also has an enthusiasm for the craft of writing that feels like she just got started yesterday. The enthusiasm is contagious and really inspired me to open up and let my inner critic take a break... it is a great skill and talent to mix nurturing support with honest critical comments. I feel Sheila possesses that type of talent and finesse. ~ Wendy A. Johnson

WEEKS AT A GLANCE:

Week One:  Description as an Organizational Structure
One way to organize a personal essay is spatially. We’ll examine sample essays that achieve evocation and discovery about places, people and times by using structures based on architecture, the corporal or environmental design.

Assignment: Participants will receive published sample essays that are based on the question “For what person, place or event do I have strong feelings of love or hate?” Each participant will write a draft of their own original essay based on this structure and receive response from the instructor and classmates.

Week Two: Narration as an Organizational Structure
A second way of organizing an essay is by events through time. We’ll examine sample essays that achieve discovery by telling a story through time. Although particular rhetorical structures provide a frame for an essay they don’t exclude the inclusion of other strategies. Concentrating on narration and description will help authors see strategies as building blocks for deepening their essays and they will learn the power of images and details to accomplish movement in an essay.

Assignment: Participants will receive published sample essays that are based on the question “When in my life have I lost someone, some place, a significant object or opportunity?” Each participant will write a draft of their own original essay based on this structure and receive response from the instructor and classmates.

Week Three: Comparison and Contrast as an Organizational Structure
Sometimes we learn and gain insight by comparing and contrasting parts of our lives. We’ll examine sample essays that have used this structure to find insight.

Assignment: Participants will receive published sample essays that are based on the question “What in my life is not the way it’s supposed to be?” (Writing with this thought in mind helps us to see more in our lives than we might have otherwise.) Each participant will write a draft of their own original essay based on this structure and receive response from the instructor and classmates.

Week Four: Process Analysis (How-To) as an Organizational Structure
The how-to structure is one we are often using in our lives when it comes to instructions to put purchases together or recipes. We’ll examine essays in which authors have turned the approach to good use to communicate their deepest feelings..

Assignment: Participants will receive published sample essays that are based on the questions “What do I know how to do make? To whom would I want to address a letter about the process? Why?” Each participant will write a draft of their own original essay based on this structure and receive response from the instructor and classmates.

Week Five: Revision
Having received careful responses from the instructor and participants, each participant will have the opportunity to post a revision of one of the four essays created in the first four weeks. The author will have a deeper understanding of how time, scene, dialog and transitions work in essays.

Assignment: Participants will receive another round of careful responses to their revised essay.

Week Six: Revision
Again, using the careful responses received, each participant will post a revision of another of the four essays they created or a second revision of the revised draft for Week Five. Again, each author will have experienced how time, scene, dialog and transitions work inside essays.

Assignment: Participants will receive another round of careful responses to their revised essay. Additionally, the instructor will provide information for those who want to begin sending their work out for publication.

Materials Needed:   The materials needed are a Gmail address for gaining membership to our private Google Group and, of course, a computer or access to one to post writing and responses to your classmate’s writing.

The instructor will post each of the 6 weeks’ lessons with exercises and models at the opening of each week so students can work on generating that writing on their own time, at their own speed during the week. She will respond to posted work within 24 - 48 hours so the writer can get started on revising. Revisions can be posted at any time during our six weeks together.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:  Sheila Bender, founder of WritingItReal.com, is the author of many books on writing, including the popular Writing Personal Essays: Shaping and Sharing Your Life Experience and Creative Writing DeMystified. Her memoir is entitled A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief. Her book of poems is Behind Us the Way Grows Wider. She has been updating previously published books. Two of them are now available in print and digitally on Amazon and through bookstores: Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down, co-authored with Christi Killien Glover, and Sorrow’s Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief. As a writer, teacher and editor, she believes that writing so others understand our hearts and minds helps us understand ourselves, heal grief and sadness and grow. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and writers’ centers such as Centrum Foundation’s summer Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, the Whidbey Island’s writer’s conference workshops, the Writer’s Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA, and Writing It Real’s annual conferences, also in the Northwest.

COST:  $220, which includes weekly assignments and positive feedback on your writing. The class will use a Google Groups format for class discussion, to which the instructor will provide access and help learning the ropes.

BUY NOW:  Writing the Personal Essay: Using Traditional Rhetorical Forms to Shape Life Experience for the Page, by Sheila Bender (6 weeks, starting 4/4/2018) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 4/4/2018

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Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:
classroom[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com

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