Pathway to the Personal Essay

A structured track of four online writing classes to be completed during 2021

Pathway to the Personal Essay

Make a yearlong commitment to your craft.

A yearlong structured track designed to help you raise your personal essay game from good to great.

Starts January 11
Space is limited to 14 writers


FUNDAMENTALS :: Jan 11 - Mar 21 
Foundations of Creative Nonfiction :: Instructor Michael Busk
See course syllabus >

INTERMEDIATE :: Apr 12 - Jun 20
The Building Blocks of the Personal Essay :: Instructor - Meghan O’Gieblyn
See course syllabus >

SUMMER ELECTIVE ::  Jul 12 - Aug 15
Choose a 5-week summer course that is most relevant to your focus and goals.

ADVANCED :: Sep 13 - Nov 21
Advanced Personal Essay: Finding a Way Through :: Instructor - Peter Mountford
See course syllabus >


  • Master literary techniques that can help turn bare facts and memories into compelling essays
  • Explore the building blocks of nonfiction, such as character, dialogue, and description
  • Try crafting different types of essays
  • Study the ground rules of memoir (and learn when to break them)
  • Build connections between the personal and the universal
  • Reach beyond your experiences to larger truths about our world
  • Become familiar with typical structures of the personal essay
  • Learn to avoid common pitfalls of the form, such as getting lost in a giant pile of information and/or coming off as solipsistic/maudlin
  • Discover research techniques and ways to locate promising source material
  • Recognize the difference between scene and summary and explore how to balance these two approaches
  • Experiment with tone and voice, theme and motif


  • Interacting with other students and the broader CNF student community via the classroom, Wet Ink software, and optional video conferences
  • Discussing assigned readings and general writing topics with peers and the instructor
  • Reading and engaging with written lectures and a selection of readings
  • Writing and revising new personal essays 
  • Receiving feedback from fellow students and instructors


  • You are ready to commit/dedicate a year to writing
  • You are new to the genre and want clear guidance
  • You are familiar with writing personal essay but want a refresher on the basics as you continue to sharpen and refine your skills
  • You work well with a plan and guidance
  • You could benefit from instructor feedback and a supportive community
  • You are up for the challenge
  • You want to develop and practice effective writing habits


$1,765 $1,305 *
Jan 11 - Nov 21, 2021

Only 14 spots are available.
This year-long program takes place entirely online.
Each student receives a one-year subscription to Creative Nonfiction magazines. Aside from the optional live video conferences, there is no need to be online at any particular time of day.

* Payment plans are available. See our FAQs for more info. 

What are you waiting for? Make 2021 the year you achieve your writing goals and take your personal essay game from good to great.