The Art of the Personal Essay

The Art of the Personal Essay celebrates a sparkling literary gem -- the personal essay.  Perhaps your profession has demanded a formal writing tone that you wish to cast off to explore and express your own voice, your own thoughts, and your own feelings to others on the page.  The personal essay is a wonderfully intimate and unassuming genre -- wildly versatile yet highly adaptable for publication. This very popular course will help you to find your own voice, express your own interests, and connect with readers. With roots in fifteenth-century letter writing, personal essays can be written to address everything from the substantial to the trivial. The Art of the Personal Essay is also an easy stepping-stone on the path to narrative nonfiction and its various expressions -- magazine features, literary nonfiction, long-form journalism, and books. The flexibility of the essay makes it a perfect point of entry for emerging writers as well as published writers looking to explore a new mode of personal expression. This course is a live, visually-rich, multimedia Zoom class. Each session follows a predictable flow from lecture to discussion to workshopping with time for reflective writing. We will read and learn from a range of diverse personal essays as well. From classical to contemporary these include Seneca, Henry David Thoreau, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, E. B. White, James Baldwin, and David Foster Wallace. Into the 21st-century, these include Roxane Gay, Zadie Smith, Elena Passarello, Helen Macdonald, and David Sedaris. Reading and discussing a range of diverse personal essays will help you to discover your own personal voice and explore what is possible. We will also practice the fictional devices writers of narrative nonfiction use to make our nonfiction come alive -- sense of place, characterisation, dialogue and internal monologue, and more.  By the end of the course you will understand the difference between narrative arcs and plots in essays as well as differences between familiar essays, lyrical essays, and collage essays. You will have the opportunity to write your own personal essays and share your work in small workshops. You will develop ideas through mind-mapping, journaling, and outlining. All writing receives detailed feedback from Kathryn. Whether your aim is publication or writing in personal journals, this course will make a lasting impact on your writing life as each student’s writing journey is respected, curated, and supported.

"Kathryn brings to her on-line writing courses not only the experienced eye and finely honed craft of a well-published author, but also a real passion for helping others through the process. Her lively, challenging sessions center around carefully chosen readings, practical advice, writing exercises, and the workshopping of participant work, all led by Kathryn with the wit, generosity and grace of a thoughtful host." -- Scott, Ithaca, New York 

"The Art of the Personal Essay was a great class. Kathryn was encouraging, letting us know what we did well, but she also took time to give us suggestions for how we could improve our work. Her feedback made me more confident and enthusiastic. The esprit de corps in our class was beyond what I would have thought possible in a Zoom class. The energy was lovely and it was a real pleasure to share work with writers from Australia to Europe to America." -- Kimberley K., Michigan


  • Discover and express your own personal writing voice.
  • Write a range of essays to create a portfolio of work totaling 10,000-20,000 words.
  • Understand the terms, tools, and techniques used by personal essayists.
  • Benefit from the practices, mindset, and experiences of a professional writer.
  • Read and discuss a wide range of important essays.
  • Enjoy the supportive structure of a positive global writing community.


  • £500 per person
  • 7-9:30 PM GMT every other Tuesday
  • Dates: March 1/15/29, April 12/26, May 10/24, June 14/28
  • Nine 2.5 hour sessions
  • Class limited to 12 people


My teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction and the personal essay. At its core, I believe teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. I create a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth.


I am a passionate practitioner and teacher of narrative nonfiction.  For more than twenty-five years, I have taught writing and literature courses as an adjunct professor of English at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University. I have a global mentoring practice, teach thriving online writing courses, and lead in-person retreats, courses, and workshops throughout the United States and Britain.