Transformation is critical to the success of a personal essay, says , a writer and editor who teaches the UCSC essay course in alternating years. Without change, she says, an essay is just something that happened, a topic instead of a story. Change can come through earth-shattering revelation—or, as Boggs shows, through quiet, even tentative steps. Whether big or small, a writer can structure an essay by starting with a problem or question, explaining how it came about, and then calling out the different points that highlight gradual evolution. Strauss says readers keep reading because of the dramatic tension: How will this problem be resolved?
This class will focus on common approaches to the personal essay, from memoir essay to lyric and, in doing so, highlight common subjects of popular interest, from the environment to art. We won’t shy away from the hard stuff, either, but will take time to discuss questions about fact v. fiction, the risks of writing about family, the imperfection of memory, and more. With weekly lectures and examples, recommended readings, and suggested creative exercises you will learn how to take the stuff of your own life and transform it into prose that elevates the personal to the universal.
Her writing has been anthologized in The Rumpus Women, Vol. 1 and her radio work has been featured on 99% Invisible. She has received residency fellowships from the Ucross Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Albee Foundation, as well as numerous college grants. She is at work on a collection of essays—personal, reported, and lyric—themed to the idea of “lost colonies.”