Personal Essay Crash Course

Everything you need to know to start writing your true story

A workshop and webinar with Jenna McGuiggan
Saturday, February 29 at 1pm

"Is my story worth telling?" Many writers confront this question when writing personal essays.

Popular culture sends us mixed messages when it comes to writing about our personal experiences. On one hand, we’re told that our stories matter; on the other, we’re warned against being narcissistic navel-gazers.

While the idea of "navel-gazing" has negative connotations today, the term stems from a Greek idea meaning "a contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation." In this session we’ll consider how contemplation of the self can lead writers to larger truths, which in turn enables us to write essays that resonate with readers.

During this session, you will learn about the the history and contemporary scope of the genre; discover the form through a variety of examples; explore what makes a personal essay compelling to readers; and unearth ideas for your own essays. This session is suitable for beginning essay writers as well as those who'd like a refresher course on the genre.

There are two options for this session: 

On-site at Creative Nonfiction

Online via Webinar

1 pm - 4 pm 

$25 if registered by 2/18/2020 *
$35 if registered after 2/18/2020

Join us live »
Space is limited to 25 attendees

1 pm - 2:15 pm EST

$12 if registered by 2/18/2020
$15 if registered after 2/18/2020

Attend online »

* In-person session includes a copy of True Stories, Well Told and a highlighter.


Location // 607 College Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Our workshop space is wheelchair accessible. Paid on-street parking is available.


Jennifer (Jenna) McGuiggan co-authored Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History (Clarkson Potter, 2019). Her essays have appeared in The Rappahannock Review, Essay Daily, Flycatcher, New World Writing, and online for Prairie Schooner and Brevity. Her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and chosen as a finalist in contests from Prime Number Magazine, Hunger Mountain, and the Orison Anthology. Jenna received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently writing a book of linked essays that explore longing and belonging, from where we live to what we believe. Through her business,The Word Cellar, she works as a freelance writer and editor and hosts an online membership community for writers.


Questions? Please call us at 412-404-2975 or email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at yates@creativenonfiction.org.