Writing the Personal Essay: 7-week Workshop with Ayelet Tsabari

Dig deep and hone the craft of unforgettable personal essays with bestselling author and memoirist Ayelet Tsabari

Registration for this class is full. Email us at info@pandemicuniversity.com to join the waiting list for the next offering and get first dibs when it’s announced.

FULL CLASS – Email to Join Waiting List

July 10–August 28, 2022*
Sundays, 1–3:30pm EST (10am–12:30pm Pacific)

*No class on July 31st

Everyone has a story that can only be told through their authentic voice. Whether they are poignant, dramatic, comedic or irreverent, the personal essay is a powerful way to tell stories that stick with readers.

This intensive, craft-oriented workshop with memoirist Ayelet Tsabari, the best-selling author of The Art of Leaving, is designed to introduce writers to personal essay form, providing them with practical tools for writing while maintaining a supportive and dynamic environment that encourages authenticity, boldness, and originality. Through workshops, readings and guided in-class exercises, students will learn the foundations of the personal essay; discover ways to use fiction devices and techniques to enhance their prose; and acquire skills for editing and rewriting. By the end of the course, writers will complete a draft of a 2,500–3,500 word personal essay. (More details below)


The course is intended for live participation, however, if you can’t be present for a class, or must leave early, a recording will be provided the morning after each class. 


During this course students will:

  • Develop practical skills and techniques to perfect the personal essay form
  • Learn the foundations of the personal essay
  • Learn how to use fiction devices and techniques to enhance their prose.
  • Acquire skills for editing and rewriting
  • Complete a draft of a 2,500–3,500 word personal essay
  • Receive constructive feedback on essay drafts from fellow students
  • Receive feedback on the first draft and final draft of their essay directly from Ayelet
  • Have access to one-on-one consultations with Ayelet if needed

Sundays, 1–3:30pm EST (10am–12:30pm Pacific)
July 10–August 28, 2022 (No class July 31st)

A syllabus with assigned readings and pre-course homework assignment is provided upon registration.

  • Class 1, July 10th: Introduction
  • Class 2, July 17th: Forms and structures
  • Class 3, July 24th: Fiction techniques for the nonfiction writer
  • (No class on July 30, long weekend / 1st drafts due on Tuesday, August 3rd)
  • Class 4, Aug. 7: Workshopping begins
  • Class 5. Aug. 14: Workshopping continues
  • Class 6, Aug. 21: Workshopping continues/Tips for Revision
  • Class 7, Aug. 28: Final drafts due. Readings and wrap-up

Weeks 1–3, each class consists of the following elements: Craft lecture; in-class exercise and sharing; discussion of assigned readings; and breakout rooms in small groups to discuss writing process and brainstorm first drafts. Also during weeks 1–3, students will be required to schedule a workshop session with their group outside of class hours.

Weeks 4–6: Emphasis will be on workshopping the drafts that were produced and submitted. Students will send their classmates their essay drafts three days in advance, indicating a “problem area” – a specific section (around 500–750 words) for which they’d like feedback. Topics of discussion will emerge from the material being workshopped.

Week 7: Final drafts due. Readings and wrap-up.


Have at least one possible idea for your essay, which you will write and workshop in this course. If you’re unsure whether this course is for you, ask us at info@pandemicuniversity.com


After checkout, you’ll receive a receipt with a link to download your syllabus, which will include Zoom passcodes, pre-class homework, and additional course information. You will also receive an emailed reminder a few days before your first class.


The course is designed for participation, so plan to attend each class and be on time. If you cannot attend a class or will be late, let the instructor know in advance. Read all assigned readings and come to class prepared to discuss them. Turn in homework on time — assignments submitted more than 48 hours late may not receive feedback. 

The course is intended for live participation, however, if you can’t be present for a class, or must leave early, a recording will be provided in the student folder the morning after. In addition to attending each class, you are expected to be available across all dates to complete your writing assignments and to fulfill workshopping obligations.

Students are expected to be present and intellectually curious during class time. Please be ready to participate with working cameras and audio. If you’re ever stuck or may need accommodation, please reach out to your instructor or TA.


Pandemic University is committed to offering a fulfilling and inclusive education. Classes are held via Zoom with Closed Captioning features enabled through auto-transcription technology. A teaching assistant will be present to correct transcription mistakes and assist in other ways. The course includes workshops and class discussions, thus students are required to participate through audio; accommodations can be made for people with speaking or other disabilities if they inform us ahead of schedule. Video is encouraged of all students in order to optimize everyone’s virtual classroom experience.


Space is limited to 16 students. Anyone wishing to cancel their registration has until July 1, 2022 to receive a guaranteed refund. If you cancel between July 1 and 8, 2022 we will only offer a refund if and after the vacated spot is filled. No refunds whatsoever will be offered after the course begins on July 9, 2022. Violations of the Code of Conduct may result in your removal from the course without compensation.


Although PanU is technically a fake university, we’re committed to high standards of artistic integrity, quality education, and maintaining a safe virtual environment for students. Abusive behaviour toward classmates or instructors will not be tolerated at any point during the course, including in private messages, and will result in expulsion without refund.

Other violations that could have you expelled from this course include: refusing to participate in group workshops; plagiarism and misrepresentation of others’ ideas as your own; racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia either in your notes (written or spoken) or in your work; sharing recordings of classes; sharing classmates’ work without their consent.

The final say on whether or not you continue in class belongs to the instructor alone. If you have any questions, email info@pandemicuniversity.com.

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