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CNF 77 — Beyond the Me-Moi: The Short Personal Essay in the Era of Social Media

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Saturday and Sunday
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 4 days
Date(s): Aug 14—Aug 22
Time: 9:00—11:30 am (PT)
Refund Deadline: Aug 14
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $320
Instructor(s): Chaney Kwak
Limit: 25
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
Saturday and Sunday
9:00—11:30 am (PT)
Aug 14—Aug 22
4 days
Refund Date
Aug 14
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Chaney Kwak
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
What separates an honest and compelling piece of personal narrative from a self-indulgent diary entry? How do you gaze beyond your navel and create writing that others can not only enjoy but also learn from? In this era of social media, we can still write an essay that is drawn from ourselves yet go beyond self-absorption. In this two-weekend course, we will study a wide spectrum of writing found online and in print. We will tackle specific craft issues such as point of view and dialogue while looking at excerpts from Alexander Chee’s essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, deeply personal memoirs, and even Instagram captions and Twitter threads. Instead of counting retweets and "likes," the class will examine how genuine writing, whether it's in print or online, can reverberate outside our social circles and reach readers who may not share anything in common with the writer. The class will consist of reading discussions and thought-provoking writing prompts that will push students to experiment beyond their comfort zone. Between the two weekends, students will also have a chance to workshop a short scene that they have produced in class. Students will leave the course well on their way to elevating quirky anecdotes and funny tales from their own lives into essays that endeavor to resonate with their readers.

While open to students of all levels, this course especially welcomes new writers.


Chaney Kwak is the author of The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship. His essays have been published in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Afar, and other publications and anthologies. He also has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Key West Literary Seminar.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (ISBN 978-1328764522)