In this nine-week workshop-based course, we will delve deep into the Personal Essay, inspecting its permutations, its conventions and the creative opportunities the form affords us as storytellers, cultural critics, and literary journalists. As a fascinating and endlessly evolving form of Creative Non Fiction, the Personal Essay begs us to investigate what truly is “personal” and what we gain in trying to articulate the unique, yet relatable “personal” in our written work. (“Essayer” in French means “to try,” after all.) Readings will include essays by Eula Biss, David Foster Wallace, Joan Didion, Jo Ann Beard, and an array of craft essays, though our primary focus will be on providing thoughtful, constructive feedback on one another’s work. With that in mind, this course is geared towards writers prepared to share a 10-35 page Personal Essay with the group within a month of the course’s start date. First time workshoppers are invited to join, as we will also go over Creative Non Fiction workshop best practices and feedback guidelines in this class. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Didion wrote in her essay “The White Album.” In this course we’ll help one another refine his/her/their story to find the life waiting to burst out within.
CAIT WEISS ORCUTT’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, The Academy of American Poets and more. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets and Best of the Net, and her manuscript VALLEYSPEAK (Zone 3, 2017) won Zone 3 Press’ First Book Award, judged by Douglas Kearney. Cait has an MFA from The Ohio State and is currently getting her Ph.D. in Poetry from the University of Houston while working on a Creative Non Fiction side project. She teaches creative writing at UH, Grackle and Grackle, Inprint, WITS, the Salvation Army, the Menil Collection, and the Jewish Community Center. She is the recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship.