Essay Collection in a Year

With Megan Stielstra

This is the year to give your writing the attention and discipline it deserves.

Our Essay Collection in a Year program will support you during the long road from idea generation to composition to revision and beyond. It’s a unique opportunity to join a writing cohort, study craft, workshop key scenes, measure your progress, meet deadlines, and give and get support in the development of long-form literary work.

This cohort is completely online through the 2023-24 session.


It’s a chance for you to join essayist Megan Stielstra (The Wrong Way to Save Your Life) and a supportive cohort of fierce, thoughtful writers who will support you through the development of a full essay collection, whether you want to complete a first draft, revise what you’ve already written, or commit to an ongoing writing practice that will sustain you long after our year is over. All online!

We’ll examine the essay and essay collection as a contribution to a greater cultural dialogue, digging into a myriad of forms including memoir, criticism, investigation, reflection, and the delicious and often messy ways that writers have blurred the lines between.

We’ll approach reading as inspiration, challenge, and treasure map: how can the work that has come before us guide us in our own creative problem solving, our how the hell do I get this on the page? 

And we’ll support each other through the different stages of the writing process with both rigor and generosity—you’ll know that your work matters deeply and you’ll know how to make it better.


Students at any stage of essay writing are encouraged to apply.

You may be anywhere in the first draft—some students may have a handful of essays already published; some may have a messy draft of a complete collection; others may have nothing more than an idea and a first sentence.

Work of any length is welcome.

PLEASE NOTE: This application-based class is selective. We are looking for students with talent and drive, though familiarity with the workshop process or previous experience writing a book is not mandatory. This program is for essayists who are ready to make a strong commitment to their work, and our waitlist for the course is typically very long. Students are expected to participate in the full program.


We’ll start with the gut—what do you need to tell, the memories, fascinations, and questions that live not in your head but your bones—and then move into craft—how to tell our stories and ideas in ways that are equally urgent to an audience.

Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we’ll engage in a series of activities (adapted for online engagement!) to get our stories out of the body and onto the page, encouraging risk and discovery and examining literary craft in new ways. How does telling a story aloud heighten our understanding of its movement and structure? How does the presence of an immediate audience influence the rewriting process? What does it mean to build an individual writing process that will sustain us without the support of a class?

Specific topics covered during the class sessions include:

  • Theme
  • Voice
  • Urgency
  • Structure and form
  • Narrative
  • Reflection
  • Voice
  • Beginnings, endings, and what makes a complete movement
  • Revision
  • Publication


Students will meet monthly on Zoom for three-hour sessions to discuss craft, tackle the challenges of writing about our experiences and ideas, and workshop drafts. In between class sessions you’ll have plenty of time to write and generate new work while still staying in touch via StoryStudio’s private online class forum.

We’ve structured this program to provide maximum benefit without demanding too much time away from focusing on your own work. In addition to workshopping short sections in class, participants will meet individually with Megan for 100-page manuscript reviews.

Students enrolled in this course will receive complimentary admission and early registration to three (3) virtual PJ Seminars. (Recent and upcoming writers include Alexander Chee, Pam Houston, Terese Marie Mailhot, Garth Greenwell, Laura van den Berg, Kaveh Akbar, Nick Flynn, and Matt Bell among others.)

The class also includes optional evening social gatherings via Zoom, to be scheduled between Megan and the cohort as desired. As a writer in our In a Year programs, you’re considered a “VIP” at the studio with early-bird access to programs and events.

Throughout the course, you’ll have access to a private online forum for exchanging additional work and sharing articles and links of interest. And most importantly, these courses provide accountability check-ins to report your progress and struggles, and keep you writing.


Whether you’ve already made headway on your book or are just gathering ideas, your cohort will provide the structure, companionship, feedback, good humor, and emotional support to help you see your project through.

You’ll also join StoryStudio’s larger community—in person and on social media—where you can connect with students from other classes, receive “first chance” invitations to special programming, and stay informed about literary events around the city.

The Essay Collection In a Year program is modeled after our highly successful Novel in a Year and Memoir in a Year courses, and you will have the opportunity to benefit socially and professionally from a strong network of alumni, many of whom are experiencing publishing success.

The program fee is $2,500.

This tuition includes:

11 sessions, meeting once per month for 11 months
A manuscript review with Megan Stielstra
Various online social gatherings with your cohort
3 comped passes to our PJ Seminars
A private online chat forum
VIP status at the Studio
A literary community to take well beyond this program

2023-24 Schedule Meets Online on the Following Wednesdays:

6:00pm – 9:00pm Central Time

Oct. 4, 2023
Nov. 1, 2023
Dec. 6, 2023
Jan. 3, 2024
Jan. 31, 2024*
March 6, 2024
April 3, 2024
May 1, 2024
June 5, 2024
July 3, 2024
Aug. 7, 2024



This course is limited to 12 students and is submission based.

  1. You will be asked to submit a 10-page writing sample in a .doc or PDF. The sample can be an essay or memoir excerpt.
  2. Someone who submits on the first day has the same chance as someone who submits on the last day, so don’t worry, and don’t rush.
  3. Payment isn’t due until after the application period is closed and acceptances have been sent out. We are happy to discuss payment plans with students who are accepted.
  4. You can indicate you’d like to be considered for the Doro Boehme Scholarship fund, which offers a $500 grant for tuition. 

The next cohort will begin in fall 2023, and applications will open in the summer of 2023. Please subscribe to our newsletter to get the most up-to-date information.