To essay is to attempt. Informed and animated by the singular life experience and voice of its author, the personal essay represents an attempt to engage deeply with an idea, a problem, a preoccupation, in the most powerful language possible. Personal essay writing presents a particularly rich opportunity to luxuriate in thought—about whatever troubles you, excites you, or otherwise keeps you awake at night.
There will be discussions of assigned readings from essayists including Michel de Montaigne, George Orwell, M.F.K. Fisher, and Katha Pollitt. Following these examples, I will assign regular exercises to help develop dialogue, characters, scenes, and structure. Each student will write and revise one short essay (up to 1500 words), and one longer essay (up to 3500 words) to share with the group for critique.
Rosie Schaap is the author of the memoir, Drinking With Men, named one of the best books of 2013 by Bookpage, Flavorwire, Library Journal, and National Public Radio. From 2011-2017, she was the monthly “Drink” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and she has also written for the newspaper’s book review, dining, sports, and travel sections. A contributor to the radio show This American Life, Schaap’s work has also appeared in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, Marie Claire, Saveur, and Travel + Leisure, among other publications. Her personal essays have been published in anthologies including Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives, Me, My Hair, And I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession, and Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York. She is on the faculty of the MFA program in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is writing a book about whiskey.