Personal Essay Writing

Draft, edit, and sell first-person essays

  • sections:
  • Sun, Tues 6:45-9:45pm ET, 8 sessions full schedule

From Anna Quindlen to Adam Gopnik, the work of personal essayists is increasingly filling the pages of magazines and websites, offering readers a glimpse of inner worlds and casting a light on the larger world around them.

This class will focus on writing and selling first-person narratives, starting with short opinion and slice-of-life pieces appropriate for The New York Times op-ed page, and moving on to longer, reported pieces written in the first-person. Assignments will be workshopped and ready for pitching.

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Find a narrative voice to anchor your essay
  • Tell a personal story without being whiney
  • Tell someone else's story
  • Know what to leave in and what to leave out
  • Self-edit and assess your voice, style, and tone

By the end of class, you will have:

At least two complete and salable personal essays.

Steve Friedman is the author of five books, including the recently published Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love and Lousy Choices in New York City and Driving Lessons: A Father, a Son and the Healing Power of Golf. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Outside, Elle, Details, The New York Times, Runner's World, The Washington Post, and New York magazine. It has been reprinted in The Best of Outside, The Bastard on the Couch, Modern Love, The Best American Travel Writing, and eight times in The Best American Sports Writing. His personal essay was the first Modern Love column ever published in The New York Times. View Steve's work at

  • "Steve created a community of writers. I immediately felt comfortable and got feedback that radically improved my writing. He encouraged me to send one of my pieces to The New York Times, and it was published. You can't give a better endorsement than that."

    Carol Vecchione

  • "Steve's class far surpassed my expectations. He runs his class with humor and plain good sense. He even helped me get my essay published in The Washington Post!"

    Jessica Allen

  • "Steve encouraged in-depth discussion about how we could improve our pieces, what to look out for, and effective editing. The class developed a camaraderie. My writing is definitely better coming out of this class."

    Amy Carniol

  • "Steve is just fantastic. This is my second class with him. I came out of the class with pieces I plan to fine-tune and pitch."

    Michele Brown

  • "I sold a profile piece to The New York Sun that I wrote for Steve's class! I gained constructive criticism and feedback. The class is a great kick-in-the-behind."

    Kerry Smith

  • "Steve makes everyone feel comfortable and encourages honest feedback in a class I looked forward to. I had piece accepted for the Modern Love column in The New York Times."

    Anna Davies

  • "Steve is insightful, engaging, and challenged us. He honored our personal experiences, but was unyielding in his demand that we craft the story of our experience to serve our readers and not ourselves."

    Jeffrey Henigson

  • "Steve was an amazing teacher. His critiques and suggestions were always on the mark. Everyone's work was so much better by the end of class."

    Jenna Kern-Rugile

  • "Steve gives specific advice on how to take any piece of writing from good to great. He is very knowledgeable about how to make your work better."

    Christina Morgan