The art of writing the personal essay

Course Dates: 11/02/23 - 12/02/23
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online
Tutors: 
Follow in the footsteps of Dorothy Parker, George Orwell and Zadie Smith with this taster course on the personal essay, a continuously thriving genre of autobiographical writing.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £69.00 Senior fee £69.00 Concession £35.00

Course Code: HW504

Available start dates 

Sat-Sun, day, 11 Feb - 12 Feb '23

Duration: 2 sessions

Or call to enrol:020 3871 3111

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

Any questions? writing@citylit.ac.uk
or call 020 7492 2717

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This course explores the key considerations when writing the personal essay in relation to tone, perspective, language and structure.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

- What kind of experiences lend themselves to the personal essay.
- Establishing tone and perspective in the personal essay.
- Using language and structure for effect in the personal essay.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Select material from their personal experience for use in an essay.
- Experiment with using tone or perspective for effect in the personal essay.
- Experiment with using language or structure for effect in the personal essay.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an introductory course but an understanding of basic language techniques used in creative writing would be of benefit.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be a taught through a mix of tutor instruction, writing exercises general discussion of approaches, issues and skills in pairs, groups or as a class. There will also be some analysis of example essays written by a range of authors.


All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.

For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.

City Lit Writing endeavours to create a safe and welcoming space for all and we strongly support the use of content notes in our classes. This means that learners are encouraged to make their tutor and classmates aware in advance if any writing they wish to share contains material that may be deemed sensitive. If you are unsure about what might constitute sensitive content, please ask your tutor for further clarification and read our expectations for participating in writing courses at City Lit.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Please bring writing materials with you.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

City Lit runs a wide variety of autobiographical writing courses. For further information please browse our website.

All students are invited to join us at Late Lines, our regular performance night for City Lit writers. Students are also encouraged to submit their work to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of creative writing. For the latest news, courses and events, stay in touch with the Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Yvonne Singh

Yvonne Singh was a staff journalist at The Guardian for over a decade, and her work has been published in that paper as well as The Observer, The Mirror, The London Evening Standard, the BBC World website, Marie Claire, Middle East Eye, Commonwealth Writers and The Big Issue among others. She contributed to the Know Your Place anthology that was featured in Guardian Weekend and in the Seaside Photographed exhibition that toured British art galleries in 2021. Her long read essay for The Guardian on her Caribbean origins was one of the paper’s most read in 2019 and her piece on a Trinidadian Hummingbird Sanctuary in November 2020 was praised in a Virago OurShelves podcast. Yvonne has also worked as an editor in a voluntary capacity for the Caribbean literary magazine Pree. Yvonne holds an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University – her debut manuscript received a distinction and was awarded second prize in the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2018. She was a judge for the SI Leeds 2020 prize. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Seán Ó Faoláin prize, longlisted for the Brick Lane Bookshop Prize and Black Spring Press, and have appeared in the acclaimed journal Southword.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.