The Stories of Our (Mid)Lives:
A Personal Essay Workshop

We're in the messy middle of our lives. 

We're making sense of what has come before and wondering what comes next.

Join a group of writers from all writing levels and backgrounds as we make sense of our experiences and learn how to share them with a wider audience.

Join us. Write and share your story.


Tell the story only you can tell. 

Midlife can be lonely. Especially when you're someone who wants to explore the "BIG" questions about our pasts, our presents, and our futures. 


I get it. We get bogged down in the day-to-day reality of work, family, life. It's hard to find the time or the space to explore who we are and what we're becoming. 


That's what this class is about: exploring, writing, connecting, and sharing. Taking the time for making sense of our experiences.

Here’s What You’ll Get:

This is a six-week interactive workshop course exploring how to tell stories based on your life. This course is open to writers of all levels and will walk you through how to use the elements of effective personal essay writing to tell a compelling story. At the end of the class, students will have a revised personal essay, or part of a memoir project. They will also have a toolbox of brainstorming, writing, and revising strategies.

Daily Lessons

A text or video lesson each Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, along with PDFs, readings, and handouts.

Weekly Exercises

Turn in a short assignment to the instructor each week and get individualized feedback from her and your class members.

Weekly Live Chats and Office Hours

A private online community (outside of Facebook) for only the members of this class will host optional live chats for the class community, as well as office hours with the instructor spread throughout the week.

Final Essay Critique

The last week of the class will include a structured critique workshop. Each student will receive feedback from the instructor and other class members on a final draft.

About The HerStories Project

herstories home

The HerStories Project is a writing and publishing community for women. We have published four successful anthologies, including MY OTHER EX: WOMEN'S TRUE STORIES OF LEAVING AND LOSING FRIENDS and MOTHERING THROUGH THE DARKNESS: WOMEN ON THE POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE. In addition, we publish personal essays from midlife women on our website. Since 2014, we have taught personal essay writing and blogging to hundreds of writers through our online and  in-person workshops.

Class Schedule

The course will begin on Wednesday, February 26th and end Tuesday, March 31st.


1

Week 1: Finding Ideas

This week's goals: Brainstorm memories and experiences. Identify the elements of a successful personal essay. Build a writing routine in the midst of the reality of our hectic and often exhausting midlife schedules.


ASSIGNMENT: Turn in and get feedback on a list of possible essay topics.

2

Week 2: Digging for Truth

Learn how to reach beyond your personal experience to reveal larger, more universal truths. Practice conveying big ideas with small moments.


ASSIGNMENT: Turn in and get feedback on one scene from your essay.

3

Week 3: Essay Structure

Build compelling scenes. Learn how to balance active scenes with clear narration. Shape a beginning, middle, and end.


ASSIGNMENT:  Turn in an outline of your essay and get feedback.

4

Week 4: Revision

Practice strategies for improving first drafts.


ASSIGNMENT: Revise and rewrite the opening or ending of your essay.

5-6

Week 5-6: Critiques

Discuss the qualities of effective feedback and critique. Give your own feedback on five essays from other members of the class. The last week will cover exploring potential publications for your essay, pitching to editors, and what to do next.Explore potential publications for your essay and what to do next.


ASSIGNMENT: Turn in a final draft of your essay incorporating your class members' feedback. The instructor will provide written feedback on a final draft within two weeks of the last day of class.


Advanced Version of the Class

In addition to the previous components of the class, an additional section of the class will include the following bonuses.

Bonus 1
Coaching Call

Schedule a 20-minute phone call during the class or in the two weeks after the class has ended. You can anything that might help you find ideas, improve your essay, or publish your writing. 

Bonus 2
E-Mail Support

After the class is over, get two weeks of private email support.  You can reach out about revising and publishing your essay, or share additional drafts of your essay.

Bonus 3
Bonus Course 

Students will have access to one of our previous classes, The Personal Essay Bootcamp, with unique material and exercises.

About Jessica Smock, Ed.D., Instructor

Jessica has been the co-editor of The HerStories Project since 2014.


She has taught writing to students in elementary school through graduate school. Through the HerStories Project, Jessica has designed and led online courses that have helped hundreds of writers improve their peronal essay writing and blogging.


Jessica is a freelance writer and former English and history teacher who has been published in the Washington Post, Upworthy, Brain Child Magazine, and academic publications, among many others. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching, as well as a doctorate, from Boston University. She has been a Teaching Fellow at Florida State University and Boston University.


A mom of two young kids, and in her mid-forties, Jessica is also firmly in the "messy middle" of her own life. She is waiting for someone to help her figure out what she's going to be when she grows up.

Here’s what people are saying about our classes

"Jessica understood me. She helped me bring out my best ideas and put them into writing. I had the opportunity to develop my writing skills in both a nurturing yet rigorous environment."


"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."

"Jessica and Stephanie led us through essay writing in small, manageable steps. I found this method really helpful as I am often overwhelmed by the blank page. I have taken many on-line classes and this was one of the few times that I did not overwhelmed and loose track of the process. I had a great experience working with Jessica and the other writers."

This is not a typical online course.

The goal of this class is (of course) to help you become a better writer.


But that's not all. It's also to help you understand how storytelling — the act of telling our stories — can improve our lives right now. Our brains are naturally wired to make sense of our lives through stories. Our stories not only reflect what has happened in our lives but the way we tell them can also help us shape what's to come.


We're at a time in our lives when we might be searching for meaning. 


Telling our stories — and hearing the stories of other women — can change us for the better.

regular course

Craft a Compelling Essay (or Start of a Memoir)

$

239

  • Six Weeks of Lessons
  • Personalized Feedback on Weekly Assignments
  • Private community (only for this class) outside Facebook
  • Office Hours (M, W, F)
  • Weekly Live Chats
  • Final Critique of Essay
Advanced course

Get Additional Support

$

349

  • All of the Regular Course Components
  • Bonus 20-Minute Coaching Call
  • Two Weeks of E-Mail Support After End of Course
  • Bonus Course (Personal Essay Bootcamp)

Or two payments of $129 (for the Regular Class)

100% Satisfaction Guarantee for 30-Days

If you are not satisfied with this course, you may write to me to ask for a refund. 

Here's what more past HerStories students have to say about our writing classes

"I love the class! Having never taken an online writing class before I found it to be very quite informative and helpful. I learned a great deal and was able to pull this through into my writing."

"A hands-on, practical and communal course that solidified my appreciation for personal essays and the women who write them."

"I've taken many writing classes with lots of great teachers but every technique presented in this class was something new for me. The lessons were fresh with lots of very concrete instructions and specific assignments, all of which made me a much better and more focused writer. Thank you!"

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay if I'm a beginner who has never published before?

I've published essays before. Will this class be too basic for me?

Will I need to be online at certain times?

I'm not sure how to give good feedback on other writers' essays. Will I be shown how?

I'm in way too many Facebook groups, and I don't want to join another one. Does this class require Facebook?

Will this class help me find a publication for my essay?

regular course

Craft a Compelling Personal Essay (or start a Memoir)

$

239

  • Six Weeks of Lessons
  • Personalized Feedback on Weekly Assignments
  • Private Community For Only This Class, Outside of Facebook
  • Instructor Office Hours (M,W,F) Inside Private Community
  • Weekly Live Chats
  • Final Critique of Essay
Advanced course

Get Additional Support

$

349

  • All of the Regular Course Components
  • Bonus 20-Minute Coaching Call
  • Two Weeks of Email Support After End of Course
  • Bonus Course (Personal Essay Bootcamp)

Or two payments of $129 (for the Regular Class)

I'm excited to get to know you!

Midlife can be lonely. Especially when you're someone who wants to discuss "BIG" questions about our pasts, our present, and our futures. 


I get it. We get bogged down in the day-to-day reality of work, family, life. It's hard to find the time or the space to explore who we are and what we're becoming. 


That's what this class is about. Find the time for yourself and your writing. Join us. 


xo Jessica

HerStories Writers