NYWW's THE PERSONAL ESSAY: AN INTRODUCTION, with Robert Anasi
"Personal Essay" is a broad term that encompasses humorous essays, opinion pieces, and mini-memoirs, but which always includes the writer's journey through a specific experience although that experience can be physical, emotional or intellectual. My workshop teaches aspiring personal essayists how to be compelling, (usually) first-person narrators and to employ craft elements such as theme, character, development, voice, pacing, scene, setting, and exposition in telling their stories. By the end of the course, participants will have engaged the essential aspects of the personal essay: structure, continuity, accuracy/honesty, creative thought, and the courage to explore powerful emotions and personal history. The goal is to complete at least one personal essay (1250-2,500 words) and develop material for future essays. Participation includes providing feedback on the essays of your classmates and in discussions of readings.
To date, I've published two books, The Gloves: A Boxing Chronicle and The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). My journalism, interviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Observer, Los Angeles Times, LA Review of Books, Pacific Standard, Salon, and Publishers Weekly, among many others. My non-fiction story First Stripe was published in The Bittersweet Science (University of Chicago Press). I'm a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement and I've received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Schaeffer Foundation, and the U.C. Irvine Chancellors Club. I recently finished a book on exploring the lost cities of the Andean Amazon and I'm currently researching both a family history and a book-TV project about a legendary police informant in the contemporary underworld of the American West.
In an age of increasing specialization, I remain a generalist, which, while certainly not the most lucrative career decision, has led me to interesting places that include maximum security prisons, the North Shore of Oahu, unexplored tracts of the Andean cloud forests and now the darker corners of law enforcement in South Central, East LA, and Tijuana. As a writer, I try to tell stories about marginalized people and communities that go beyond headlines and stereotypes, no matter if my subjects are boxers, snitches, bohemians, campesinos in the Peruvian highlands or the now vanished blue-collar Irish Catholic neighborhood in which I was raised. In every case, this work relies on long immersion, both through research and sharing the daily lives of my subjects. I often wish there was a faster path to empathy, understanding and seasoned prose but, as a friend once said, If it was easy, everybody would do it.
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