“Writing is an opportunity to take the emotions we have felt many times and give them light, color, and a story.” – Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones


The HerStories Project will now offer online writing classes to women writers — of all levels, of all genres.

Are you a writer who has wanted to try her hand at writing a personal essay or a short memoir piece but you weren’t sure where to start? Are you a blogger who wants to submit to new places and show different sides of yourself as a writer? Have you always wanted to learn how to write about your personal experiences so that they communicate larger truths and meaning to others? Do you simply want to challenge yourself as a writer and get support and feedback from other writers?

The HerStories Project Personal Essay Writing Bootcamp will be offered this summer and this fall. 

Writing about yourself can be hard; writing about yourself so that your story is about something bigger than your own life is much harder.

The fall session will be offered from September 22 through October 18, 2014.

  • To enroll in the Fall Session, click here.
  • Class size limited to 25. $125
  • In this session, students will also be assigned to an additional writer or editor, who will provide more feedback during the last week of the session.
  • The Call for Submissions for the next HerStories Project anthology will be announced in early September. Students will have the option to write an essay for possible submission to this anthology during the session, with individualized feedback from the instructor.

For both the Summer and Fall sessions:

Instructor: Jessica Smock

Jessica started writing stories as soon as she could use a pencil. She wrote her second novel (the first — called “The Amazing Journey” — was written at age 10 for an after school program and bore an “incredible” similarity to the classic children’s book “The Incredible Journey”) in a selective high school program with visiting artists from around the country. Jessica was an English teacher and writing instructor for more than 12 years, from the elementary to the college level. She was awarded two grants to develop writing workshop curricula for two school districts. She has been a newspaper reporter and editor; a College of Social Sciences Fellow at Florida State University; a Senior Research Fellow for Root Cause in Cambridge, MA; and a Teaching Fellow and literacy instructor at Boston University, from which she received her doctorate last spring. Her own writing has been published in numerous websites and publications, including Brain, Child; Babble; the Huffington Post; Scary Mommy; iVillage; and Role/Reboot. She is currently the Assistant Editor of Literary Reflections at Literary Mama. 

In this class, we’ll learn about what makes a personal essay shine. Not just work but dazzle first an editor and then your readers. We’ll learn the elements of good essay writing that make personal stories come alive.

This four-week class will combine self-paced lessons, writing exercises, readings from published writers, and feedback from the instructor and from classmates. The goal of the class is to help you learn strategies for planning, drafting, organizing, and revising a compelling, meaningful personal essay to submit for publication.

Short writing assignments and exercises will be assigned each week. A personal essay of between 750 to 2000 words will be due during the final week.

Each week of the class will be focused around a theme (see below).

Week One: The focus will be on understanding the qualities of a personal essay and on brainstorming ideas for our own essays.

  • What is the personal essay? How does it differ from other writing genres?
  • Where are your strengths as a writer? Are they in creating description, in telling plot, or in reflecting on your experiences? How can you use those strengths and address your weaknesses?
  • How do you choose the right topic for your own story? Which memories or topics do you keep coming back to?
  • How do we identify the specific moments in our lives that are best for writing about larger themes?

Week Two: The focus will be on adding specific details, description, and imagery to our writing.

  • How can you bring our readers into a story using sensory details and vivid description?
  • How do you create unforgettable scenes in your writing that convey a sense of place and develop characters? How do you use dialogue effectively?

Week Three: The focus will be on revealing the deeper meaning, or theme, of our essays.

  • How do you figure out what the one “big thing” that your essay is about?
  • How do you learn to use your unique voice to express these meanings?

Week Four: The focus will be on revising our essays.

  • How do we identify problems in our writing?
  • How do we ourselves give useful feedback to other writers?
  • How do we choose the best structure, or organization, for an essay?
  • How do we decide which feedback – from peers, from an instructor — is useful for us and which is not?

“Everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write” — Dani Shapiro in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me!

I’m also available for one-on-one consultations and instruction through any stage of the writing process. Or work with me privately from brainstorming to final draft on an essay.

E-mail: jessica@herstoriesproject.com.

To enroll in the Fall Session (9/22 to 10/18): click the button below or click here.  I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Testimonials from Former Students:

The best online course I’ve had for memoir. In five years of taking writing workshops, Jessica’s class was the hands on and specifics I’d been looking for. Classes in the past had too much time spent on feedback for the work of others and not enough time spent on building skills with exercises specific for that part of writing.”

“I learned so much from the Personal Essay Writing Bootcamp! I have more tools in my writer’s work box, which has also given me greater confidence. I’m inspired to go deeper with my feelings and my writing.”