Week 1: Who’s out there?
Analyze local publications in your area that include personal essays. Pick up a copy, go online, look over their topics and get familiar with the kinds of stories they like to publish. We will also focus on online publications that publish personal essays. Things we will look at: how long an essay is, where to submit, what Submittable is, finding who to email submissions to and what social media can reveal about a publication. We’ll discuss how non-paying or low-paying local and online essay markets can build your portfolio and lead to bigger (paying) pubs. We’ll talk about common themes in local magazines and start brainstorming ideas on what you can write about. We’ll analyze what makes a great personal essay by going over a couple recent essays in the online publications Motherwell and Literary Mama. We will also talk about the submission opportunities in Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
Assignment: Create a list of 1-3 local publications (think: parenting, women’s, travel and business pubs) and 1-3 online publications that you’d like to submit to. Next, create a list of topics you might write about that are similar to the themes we discussed this week.
Week 2: Using “I” and loving it!
The personal essay market is all about the first-person POV (point of view). Writing in the “I” voice can be scary and intimidating… but it can also be joyful, fresh and inspiring. Let’s take this week to get confident in writing in the 1st person voice. You might even consider using a 3rd person POV to start (using the pronoun “he” or “she”) and then later converting your piece to first person (writing with “I.”) We’ll talk about the things that an editor looks for in a personal essay. In a nutshell: A story you would tell your best friend! Personal essays include the tough stuff (serious or funny!) and show your readers how you made it through. Again, we’ll look at online essays that work well and talk about including key elements like dialogue and setting. This week, you will feel your way through a first-person piece and notice which emotions come out and what you connect with. Don’t be surprised if you have some epiphanies while you are writing. What you write about might surprise you. Let your story find its way!
Assignment: Select a topic and write 500-800 words about it. Submit it by Monday, and I will offer personal feedback by Wednesday. This can be a very rough draft. I will provide feedback and thoughts on improvement as well as what stood out and made me happy, sad, laugh, hurt, gasp. A reaction by your reader is the key to success!
Week 3: Polish and Submit!
It’s time to refine your essay and do some polishing. You may find that your story takes on deeper meaning after a few days away from it. Take the feedback from last week and dig in deeper! We’ll also go over some common pitfalls in writing: We’ll focus on cutting the dreaded -ly words, avoiding the word “feel” and replacing it with more descriptive words, creating a tie-in at the end of your story that brings us back to the beginning and... saying good-bye to clichés. We’ll also discuss ways to make your story safely YOURS and avoid problems when writing about other people. We’ll also briefly discuss what a cover letter looks like when submitting an essay.
Assignment: Revise and resubmit your essay. Also, choose one publication you will submit your essay to and include the name of the editor and their email. I will provide feedback so that you can edit/polish once more. Then... it’s time! Use the feedback that you like and relate to the most... and submit to the editor you have chosen!
Materials needed: Access to the Internet, Facebook, and e-mail.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Kandace Chapple is the editor and publisher of Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, a regional women’s publication in Michigan. She has spent 15 years coaching writers in her publication and helping them polish their personal essays. Her own essays have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Literary Mama, Motherwell and more. She hosts weekly #Friday500 coaching sessions where writers submit 500 words every Friday (or else!). She is also a well-known freelance writer for publications in Michigan, including Traverse Magazine. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a minor in Journalism and a Bachelor’s degree in Business. She loves to mountain bike on Northern Michigan trails, hike with her dog, Cookie, and spend time with her husband and two sons. Visit her at www.kandacechapple.com.
COST: $125, which includes weekly assignments and individual feedback from the instructor. You will also be invited to a private Facebook group for student interaction and discussion.
BUY NOW: Writing Personal Essays for Local and Online Publications with Kandace Chapple (3 weeks, starting 2/3/2020) Limit: 12 students. Early registration is recommended.
For Class Session Starting 2/3/2020
Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. Just before class begins, she will e-mail you with instructions on how to get started.
Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:
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