I have taught several writing classes at Rancho la Puerta, Book Passage, San Jose State, and the San Francisco Writers Grotto. My topics have included memoir, personal essay, and writing from the female perspective.
Because it's proving challenging for students to make three separate weekend dates, I've decided to go back to what I started with in the beginning: teaching a one-day intensive. The class will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (five hours) on Sunday, Sept. 28. The cost of the class will be $130 - less than the three-parter. It will include coffee in the morning and lunch foods. There will be time for writing included, and where you won't be expected to complete an essay during class, you'll finish the seminar with at least an excellent frame in place, just waiting to be filled with your words.
Writing the Personal Essay: Capturing a Moment in 1000 Words
Instructor: Jane Ganahl
Date: Sunday, Sept. 28
Place: Litquake's office downtown - 57 Post Street near Montgomery
Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Course fee: $130 ($75 required to hold a spot)
Class size: Limited to 10
To register: email Jane at email@example.com
Description: Today at lunch, an elderly woman finished her restaurant meal and tiptoed over to bury her nose deeply in a huge urn full of lavender lilacs by my table. She looked up at me, we smiled at each other - and then she was gone. I began to ponder right then how to turn that tiny but potent moment into an essay. Perhaps I'd muse on whether someday I'd also learn to smell the (metaphoric or literal) flowers? Every day there are moments such as these that are ripe for mining, and for spinning into words that tell a universal truth. How do you identify those moments? How do you then find their universal truths? And then, how on earth do you tell the story in 800 to 1200 words? All it takes is a little tuning in - to life, to yourself - and some practice with the writing part. In this intensive workshop, we'll discuss all the above, and students will learn how to write a first-class personal essay - as a writing exercise to help hone their craft, and perhaps even for publication. And I'll give advice on how to get your essays read - both online and in print.
Personal Essay: From Transcendent Moments to Political Passions
Instructor: Jane Ganahl
Number of sessions: 3
Meets: Sunday mornings, 9:30 a.m. – noon near Union Square, SF
Dates: June 1, June 8, June 29
Course fee: $195 ($75 deposit to register). Includes coffee and breakfast goodies.
To register, contact the instructor. All deposits are nonrefundable.
Description: Your mentally ill brother calls in the middle of the night, causing you to ruminate on your relationship, and lifelong inability to help him. A radio report about the scuttling of a gun control bill causes you to feel rage because years after your friend was killed in a drive-by shooting, no action has yet been taken. Your little girl voices her dream of becoming a ballerina, and you remember with poignancy that you once had the same dream before reality set in and you realized you needed to make a living.
The only thing these scenarios have in common is a pause - a moment of reflection – in which a thought or memory transports you and ignites your feelings. All of them are perfect jumping off points for a sterling personal essay. You need not have broken bread with Amazon tribes, set a bicycling distance record, nor slept with a president to have a personal essay in you. In fact, the ones that resonate most profoundly with readers (and would-be publishers) are the ones that give us fresh perspective on everyday occurrences. The ones with the clearest-written moments of epiphany.
The concept of epiphany is one of the basics that will be taught in this three-session class. Students will come without a draft in hand and leave with the essay equivalent of a shiny penny. In between they’ll learn the basics of personal essay writing (yes, there is a structure that works), get feedback on their chosen topics, have their essays workshopped, learn about how to pitch to publishers, and perhaps form the basis of a writing group in the process.
Instructor Bio Award-winning journalist Jane Ganahl has written more than 500 essays during her career as newspaper columnist, magazine freelancer, and anthology contributor. She has penned essays for a variety of publications including Hearst Newspapers, Bazaar, HuffingtonPost.com, Ladies Home Journal, Salon.com, RollingStone.com, SecondAct.com, Match.com and more. She is the author of a memoir, “Naked on the Page: the Misadventure of My Unmarried Midlife” (Viking, 2008) and contributor to five anthologies. She is also the co-founder and artistic director of Litquake.http://www.janeganahl.com/.
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