How can we write about our own lives without merely gazing at our own navels — and how can we use personal writing to make meaning of our own experiences for ourselves and for others? In this six week class, we'll delve deep into the personal essay in its myriad forms, from reported personal essay to memoir to lyric essay and everything in between.
Throughout the course, we'll read and discuss published personal essays written in a wide variety of styles and by a diverse group of writers to see how they were built and what lessons we can take from these to employ in our own work.
We'll also write (and give/get feedback on) our own personal essays. Each week, students will attempt a creative personal essay form — a Letter of Recommendation, "The Place Where You Live," a "Dispatch" (reported scene), and more — to share and discuss in class.
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.