Workshop: Essay Writing with Brian Dillon

Time and date

Monday 10 July 2023

3 days

9:30 am

2:30 pm

This workshop will run from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 July, from 9.30am to 2.30pm each day with two breaks built in to each day.

The essay is having a moment – this ancient form of writing, often overlooked, suddenly feels very contemporary. Whether personal or polemical, poetic or journalistic, the essay is a genre in its own right. Why write essays? And how? In this three-day workshop, essayist, critic and memoirist Brian Dillon will explore voice, tone, structure and research, as well as where our essays might live in the world. Short writing exercises and some brief examples of writing by great essayists will help us think about where to begin and where the essay might wander.

Max: 15 participants

Admission: €230


Day 1: What are essays and what are they about?

In this first session we’ll read some examples of essays by Michel de Montaigne, Georges Perec and Joan Didion, and think about the scope of the essay, its capacity for curiosity and engaging with the world on a grand scale or in small and often personal ways. We’ll share our impressions of both the readings and the essay form in general, before moving on to a short exercise in writing and curiosity.


Day 2: What shapes can an essay take?

On the second day we’ll think together about structure, form and flow. We’ll read some classic essays by James Baldwin, Maeve Brennan and Annie Dillard, and there will be a writing exercise in which you can begin to put a shape on your own ideas and respond to each other’s plans for structuring an essay.


Day 3: What does the essayist sound like?

Some essayists are all voice, others much more neutral and self-effacing. We’ll look at essays by Hilton Als, Elizabeth Hardwick and Virginia Woolf, and consider how their voices come into being on the page, and why they might sound the way they sound. As with earlier sessions, there will be a writing exercise and feedback. We’ll conclude the session, and the workshop, with a Q&A on publishing essays and nonfiction.


Brian Dillon

Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. His books include Suppose a Sentence, Essayism, The Great Explosion (shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize), Objects in This Mirror: Essays, I Am Sitting in a Room, Sanctuary, Tormented Hope:...

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