The University of Iowa

Building Block Essay Lab

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020

In this workshop, we will start together from that infamous, exhilarating, and intimidating Blank Page. Working step by step, we will execute a series of assignments to create the building blocks of a personal essay. Then we will examine how those blocks can be snapped together in various arrangements to improve focus and unity, while enhancing connections and magnifying insights. Mid-week we will take a break to read, discuss and learn from model essays. Then we will ask ourselves how we could enrich our own narratives. How could they branch out? And what tangents could they support?


Every writer will go home with a rough draft or several essay beginnings. The Essay Lab is a safe and stimulating place to brainstorm a new nonfiction project or to renew and refresh your writing by coming at it from a new direction. Poets and fiction writers who want to try writing personal history or idiosyncratic takes on any subject are welcome, as well, of course, as all writers of nonfiction.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.