Personal Essay Crash Course // Webinar

Everything you need to know to start writing your true story.

Personal Essay Crash Course // Webinar

"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 workshop 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 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

Suitable for beginning essay writers as well as those who’d like a refresher course on the genre.

The presentation will end with a Q & A.

Saturday, February 29th, 2020
1 pm - 2:15 PM EST

Advance registration required.
Space is limited.

$12 if registered by 2/17/2020
$15 if registered after 2/17/2020

Want to attend the event live? There is an in-person option available as well. 

Schedule Overview:

The presentation will serve as an introduction to the personal essay. You will learn about the history of the personal essay genre and will review a variety of essays to get a sense of the contemporary scope of the form. The presentation will cover what makes a personal essay compelling to readers, how to find subject matter for writing personal essays, and how to connect our personal stories to larger themes and ideas. We’ll also touch on where to publish personal essays.

The presentation will end with a Q & A

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 the director of education, Sharla Yates, at