The literary essay often conjures a long piece of writing, something dense or sprawling that explores central questions or ideas. But what about the essay in very short form? The short essay can be incredibly potent, and the form offers the same opportunity for lyricism, for exploration and for exposition, albeit with some additional restraint. To write in short form also helps us refine our craft and become better editors of our own work. In the heartbreaking times such as the ones in which we find ourselves, it can be helpful to try our hand at writing in shorter form in order to keep our attention and to help us get to the heart of what it is we believe or what it is we want to say.
In this weekly online class, conducted on the user-friendly online platform Zoom, we will read and discuss a number of published short form essays (generally fewer than 2,000 words, though some far shorter) from writers like Mary Ruefle, Hanif Abdurraquib, Joan Didion, Elissa Washuta, and Alexander Chee.
We will also work on our own short essays and share those with the class for feedback and supportive discussion. Experienced essayists and those newer to the form (or to writing) are welcome, and you can bring an existing essay in need of support or an idea for an essay you are itching to write. We'll come together (virtually) during this strange and difficult time to bring strange and difficult essays to the page so that they sing.
Lauren Markham is writer and educator based in Berkeley who writes fiction, essays, and literary journalism. Her book, The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, was published by Crown in 2017, and was the winner of the Ridenhour Prize, the Northern California Book Award, silver medal winner of the California Book Award, shortlisted for a Lukas Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize, and longlisted for a Pen America Award.
Lauren's essays and reportage have appeared in outlets such as Harper’s, Guernica, the New York Times, The Guardian, The New Republic, Orion, and Virginia Quarterly Review, where she is a contributing editor. She has published fiction in Narrative, The American Literary Review, and Drunken Boat. In addition teaching at Left Margin LIT, she also teaches in the MFA in writing programs at Ashland University and the University of San Francisco.
More about Lauren: www.laurenmarkham.info/about/