Online Course

Pathway to the Personal Essay

January 10 - November 20, 2022

Level All Levels

A yearlong structured track designed to help you raise your personal essay game from good to great.

Additional Information

Starts January 10
Space is limited to 14 writers


This structured track—four of our best online writing classes—is designed to help you raise your personal essay game from good to great.

Whether you’re new to the genre or you’re looking to add more rigor and accountability to your writing practice, this thoughtful progression of courses will help you learn (or revisit) the fundamentals of the genre, develop your craft, enrich your knowledge, and sharpen your skills.

By the end of the year, you’ll have mastered the basics, written and revised new work, and grown significantly as a writer.

Make 2022 the year you stay motivated and meet your writing goals. Join our vibrant and engaged writing community today.


FUNDAMENTALS :: Jan 10 – Mar 20
Foundations of Creative Nonfiction :: Instructor – Ploi Pirapokin

INTERMEDIATE :: Apr 11 – Jun 19
Writing the Personal Essay :: Instructor – Meghan O’Gieblyn

SUMMER ELECTIVE ::  Jul 12 – Aug 15
Choose a 5-week summer course that is most relevant to your focus and goals.

ADVANCED :: Sep 12 – Nov 20
Advanced Personal Essay: Finding a Way Through :: Instructor – Peter Mountford


  • Master literary techniques that can help turn bare facts and memories into compelling essays
  • Explore the building blocks of nonfiction, such as character, dialogue, and description
  • Try crafting different types of essays
  • Study the ground rules of memoir (and learn when to break them)
  • Build connections between the personal and the universal
  • Reach beyond your experiences to larger truths about our world
  • Become familiar with typical structures of the personal essay
  • Learn to avoid common pitfalls of the form, such as getting lost in a giant pile of information and/or coming off as solipsistic/maudlin
  • Discover research techniques and ways to locate promising source material
  • Recognize the difference between scene and summary and explore how to balance these two approaches
  • Experiment with tone and voice, theme and motif


  • Interacting with other students and the broader CNF student community via the classroom, Wet Ink software, and optional video conferences
  • Discussing assigned readings and general writing topics with peers and the instructor
  • Reading and engaging with written lectures and a selection of readings
  • Writing and revising new personal essays
  • Receiving feedback from fellow students and instructors


  • You are ready to commit/dedicate a year to writing
  • You are new to the genre and want clear guidance
  • You are familiar with writing personal essay but want a refresher on the basics as you continue to sharpen and refine your skills
  • You work well with a plan and guidance
  • You could benefit from instructor feedback and a supportive community
  • You are up for the challenge
  • You want to develop and practice effective writing habits

What are you waiting for? Make 2022 the year you achieve your writing goals and take your personal essay game from good to great.

Course Registration


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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

Read Success Stories


I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill