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Tuesdays, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
January 15 to February 19

$495 ($396 for members)

Paragraph Union Square

Zaina Arafat

6-Week Personal Essay Workshop

“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear," essayist Joan Didion once wrote. Indeed, personal essays allow us to make sense of our lived experiences. But have you ever sat down and tried to translate a raw, emotional experience into an essay, only to find that what you’ve written just feels like a recounting of that experience, an anecdote without any deeper resonance? Successful essays often have two levels of about-ness: what that essay is about on the surface, and what it’s truly about (otherwise, readers and editors are left asking, “so what?!”). And by speaking to the specifics of an experience, you can get at a universal theme or truth.

Through a range of published essays, in-class writing prompts, and workshops, we will learn how to create essays that speak to both the specific and the universal, and how to craft personal experiences into artful, layered essays. We will also examine the ways in which distinguishing your unique voice can help to establish your platform as a writer and build your writing career, along with the process of pitching, submitting, and getting your essays into print. Writers of varying levels can benefit from this course; those who are new to the form, as well as those who have a substantial publishing record and seek to deepen their essay writing practice.

Zaina Arafat is an Arab-American writer. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Catapult Books, and she is also at work on an essay collection. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York TimesGranta, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Washington PostThe AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorBuzzFeed, VICE, and NPR, among other publications. She is the 2018 recipient of the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa, The School of the New York Times, Catapult and Sackett Street Writers', as well as abroad in the Middle East and North Africa. She has also led workshops through the Writer's Guild Initiative for DACA recipients and Muslim writers. She holds an M.F.A. from Iowa and an M.A. from Columbia University. She grew up between the U.S. and the Middle East and she currently lives in Brooklyn. Contact: