Experimenting with Essay Forms — An online writing intensive with Vanessa Mártir

Monday, October 21, 2019 until Monday, November 18, 2019


Online Course
1 Mead Way
Bronxville, NY 10708
United States

Instructor: Vanessa Mártir
5 sessions, $450
Online course

Class face-time, 7-8pm, Thursdays

You have everything you think you need for your essay: you have the events, you have the material you want to cover. But you can’t seem to get the story right. What’s happening? Maybe the issue isn’t the essay, but the form you’re using!


At some point we learned that all stories should be told in chronological order. While relating events in the order in which they occurred can be useful, sometimes the traditional form won’t cut it for what we’re trying to say and do. That’s where experimentation comes in.


What if juxtaposing events gives your memories meaning--can this be an essay? What if the best way to write your story is to also braid in your mother’s story, is that possible? Or maybe it’s a resume as an essay? What about a recipe--can that be an essay? Can we write an essay using google maps? What about a list?


The answer to all of these is YES!


In this writing intensive class, we will:

  • ask radical questions about the essay form itself;

  • read and analyze sample essays that deconstruct nontraditional forms to see how writers have used them to tell surprising and moving tales; and

  • do exercises based on these forms to inspire participants to take risks with form.

  • write drafts of experimental essays.

The class will include two live video conferences via zoom during the 5 weeks of the class. These would not be compulsory and would be recorded for those who cannot participate, for whatever reason.   

Vanessa Mártir is a long time educator and writing coach. She created the Writing Our Lives Workshop in 2010 and has since led hundreds of writers through the journey of penning their stories. Vanessa is working on completing her memoir,A Dim Capacity for Wings, and has published widely, including inThe Washington Post,The Rumpus,Bitch Magazine,Poets & Writers,the VONA/Voices Anthology,Dismantle, and the NY Times Bestseller​Not That Bad,  edited by Roxane Gay, among others. Vanessa is the recipient of a 2019 Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) Award in Literary Arts, a 2019 AWP Kurt Brown Award in Creative Nonfiction and a 2013 Jerome Foundation Award for T&W Artists. She is currently partnering with Longreads to publish Mother Wound essays.

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Note: Details about room assignment, parking, and any other information relevant to the course will be emailed to you the week before classes begin. If you have questions about the registration process, please call us at 914-395-2205 or email writinginstitute@sarahlawrence.edu.