Memoir Mentorship: Perfecting the Personal Essay


Cost: $198

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You’ve taken the first step in writing a personal essay: You dug deep and poured your heart out onto the page. Now you’re ready for step two: getting professional editorial feedback to refine that story so it’s ready to pitch to publications. This is not a group class but a one-on-one editing workshop, with 15 slots available this May. Narratively co-founder and longtime editorial director Brendan Spiegel, who has edited over 1,000 memoir pieces published on Narratively, will review and critique your story, helping you polish a second and third (hopefully final!) draft. 

Writers should have a completed draft of a personal essay (800 to 2,500 words) before signing up. You will receive feedback in three stages:

  • Week 1: You submit your personal essay draft. (After signing up you can choose which week you’d like to start.) UPDATE: All May slots are now sold out! So we are adding a few additional slots for writers to join in June. Writers who book now can start the week of June 3, June 10 or June 17.

  • Week 2: Instructor edits story, providing a memo outlining overall feedback, thoughts and suggested changes, plus detailed in-line comments on the story. Student and instructor have a one-on-one phone consultation to review feedback and talk through a plan for next steps

  • Week 3: You submit a revised essay draft.

  • Week 4: Instructor reviews your revision and provides further detailed notes. 

This class is right for you if…

  • You have a completed draft of a personal essay.

  • You want to receive feedback on that essay to perfect it before pitching to publications.

  • You’ve pitched your essay but haven’t placed it, and you’re wondering how it might be improved. 

After this class you’ll be ready to…

  • Pitch your polished personal essay to a top publication.

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Your Instructor: As co-founder and editorial director at Narratively for the past 11 years, Brendan Spiegel has personally assigned and edited over 2,000 longform stories, working closely with everyone from first-time writers to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters. Brendan takes a hands-on, immersive approach to editing — he’s especially proud that one writer recently dubbed him “the kindest and toughest editor I’ve ever worked with.” The stories he’s edited have won awards from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, the New York Press Club, The Best American Sports Writing and many more, while leading Narratively to be cited as a Webby Awards Honoree for Best Writing. More than 50 of the longform stories Brendan has edited have been optioned for TV and film development. Brendan’s own reported stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, New York magazine, Travel and Leisure and many other publications. But the only thing that really impresses most people he meets is that he appeared on an episode of the PBS show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? when he was 12 and caught Carmen in Africa.

“Brendan is one of my favorite editors in the field. His care and patience around ensuring my voice, words and intentions are considered and seen have allowed both my individual articles and also my writing at large to thrive. Brendan is an honest, transparent and thoughtful collaborator. I wouldn’t be the writer or journalist — or editor! — I am today without his guidance and expertise.” —Caroline Rothstein, writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Nylon, Narratively, The Forward and elsewhere.

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Registration Details: Seats in this class are limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. All purchases are final and nonrefundable. After signing up, you’ll receive an email receipt confirming your purchase. Prior to the start of your class you’ll receive an invitation to access the virtual classroom and view all class materials.

Questions? Email us at

Check out all of our Narratively Academy online writing classes here.