Craft Seminar: How to Write an Essay Collection with Alexander Chee

Saturday, October 3, 2020 - 4:00pm to Sunday, October 11, 2020 - 6:00pm

Registration is available through our partner The Shipman Agency. Please note that all class times are in Eastern Standard Time, not Arizona Time. 

2 Sessions: Saturday, October 3 + Sunday, October 11
4:00-6:00PM EST
Alexander Chee

When I sat down to put together my first essay collection, I made a study of some collections I admired and spoke to some writers who had written essay collections too. Some hadn’t thought about the organization much. Some had. Some hadn’t revised their essays—and some had. I had a vague idea of how a short story collection came together but that didn’t quite map onto this form—it mattered that I would be a speaker in these essays, and effectively a character, too. But I didn’t want this to be a memoir, either. This class collects my thinking about this newly popular literary form as it expands. I look at more collections, now that I am at work on my second collection, and offer a survey of the form by way of a mix of classics and avant-garde experiments, discussing collections by Mary McCarthy, Cathy Park Hong, David Wojnarowicz, Samantha Irby, Elif Batuman, Yiyun Li, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Brian Blanchfield, John Jeremiah Sullivan and Wendy C. Ortiz among others. 

I will also offer six writing prompts that I used for essays in my own first collection, and discuss the way I composed them, three per class. 

This is a lecture class in two parts with some suggested readings and six writing prompts. There is no workshop component. Students will be sent a suggested reading list after registration. Reading the collections under discussion is recommended but not required. Some readings will be provided by PDF.

Three scholarships are available.

Alexander Chee’s most recent book is the widely celebrated essay collection, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel (Mariner Books, 2018), named a Best Book of 2018 by TIME, the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Wired, Esquire, Buzzfeed, New York Public Library, Boston Globe, The Paris Review, Mother Jones, and Out Magazine among others. His novel Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) was a national bestseller, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was praised as “a brilliant performance” in the Washington Post. Chee’s debut novel Edinburgh (Welcome Rain, 2001; Picador, 2002) won the Iowa Writers' Workshop's Michener Copernicus Prize in Fiction, the Lambda Literary Foundation's Editor's Choice Prize, and the Asian American Writers' Workshop Literary Award.

A contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at the Virginia Quarterly Review, his essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, T Magazine, Tin House, Slate, and Guernica, among others. His awards and fellowships include a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak.