book inc K Programs K Personal Essay Lab (Three Months)

Personal Essay Lab

Personal Essay Lab is a three-month program designed to give writers the feedback, support, and direction they need to revise and submit a personal essay or memoir excerpt for publication. In six sessions that meet every other week, Personal Essay Lab will help writers place one or two essays in reputable media outlets or literary journals.

We are looking for passionate writers who are eager to learn and persist in the process, who would be open to a collaborative experience and thrive in a community. By working together, we help each other remain steadfast and consistent to maximize our chances of success.

Our next three-month Personal Essay Lab program begins October 1, 2024. We will begin accepting applications on July 1, 2024. If you’d like to be alerted when our application period opens, please contact us at

Personal Essay Lab

How Our Personal Essay Lab Works

Participants will interact primarily in two ways:

  • During our six Zoom Sessions, we will discuss our work and provide each other with feedback in small groups.
  • On Slack, we will share our daily writing journey, including our goals and progress, resources we find helpful, readings we find inspiring, suggestions, requests for advice, and, most importantly, encouragement. Assignments and other resources will also be available on Slack. Regularly using Slack is a key aspect of the program for every participant.

We will focus on three areas:

  • Goal-Setting & Research: When we begin, we will work together to set goals and a plan to achieve them, including how publishing your essay will support your overall goals as a writer. We’ll also research target publications, narrowing them down into a prioritized list.
  • Revision: The revision process will be rigorous and continue over the course of the program, combining feedback from:
    • (2) Reading Rounds: Breaking off into groups of three or four, we will have two reading rounds with fresh readers in each. The feedback will be guided by a Personal Essay Checklist, a template to be created that will structure feedback to make it easy to do and easy to follow. After each round, the writer will create a revision plan and present it to their readers to close the loop. Writers can use the reading rounds for the same essay or two different essays.
    • 1:1 Feedback from Peer Artist Leader (PAL): Each writer in the Personal Essay Lab will receive one-on-one editorial feedback from the PAL that includes structural suggestions and sentence-level edits in order to revise and polish the essay to submit for publication. Each PAL one-on-one includes a letter to the writer, revision annotations on the essay draft, and a 30-minute Zoom call to review the feedback.
  • Submission: This will include establishing an account on Submittable if you haven’t yet, sending out essays to target publications, and keeping track of rejections and any responses you may receive, adjusting your strategy as appropriate. Writers will share their progress during the in-person Zoom session as well as online via Slack during daily check-ins.

Are You a Good Fit for Our Personal Essay Lab?

To participate in the Personal Essay Lab you should:

  • Have at least one complete draft of a personal essay between 1,500-3,500 words that you are ready to revise and polish to send out to be considered for publication.
  • Successfully completed either book inc’s Memoir Incubator, Project Write Now’s six-week Personal Essay course, or another six-week Project Write Now creative nonfiction class. Or have commensurate experience in an essay writing workshop elsewhere. Note: Part of the application is obtaining a recommendation from your workshop instructor or Peer Artist Leader attesting to your commitment to your writing practice and full participation in the collaborative experience of our programs.
  • Be open and interested in learning about the revision and submission process for personal essays, along with creating a sustainable strategy, practice, and plan of your own.
  • Be eager and available to support your fellow writers to tackle the long-term challenging process of submission, offering encouragement, practical recommendations, and positive feedback.
  • Be able and willing to read personal essays of fellow participants and provide specific and actionable positive feedback.
  • Be able to commit the necessary time during the program to revise and submit your personal essays.

Program Details

Cost: $500

Our three-month program costs $500. Tuition can be paid in full or in two increments, according to our payment schedule. Your registration will not be considered complete until your payment, payment plan, or scholarship seat has been confirmed. 

Note: Proceeds help support PWN’s community outreach programs. Partial and full scholarship seats are available. Email for more information.


Our next three-month Personal Essay Lab begins in the fall. We meet from 7 to 9 p.m. ET every other Tuesdays starting on October 1st. 
Note: the schedule is subject to change based on the needs of the program.

October 1, 15, 29
November 12
December 3, 17 

Application Process

Completion of one of the following programs or classes is a prerequisite for Personal Essay Lab:

  • book inc’s Memoir Incubator,
  • Project Write Now’s six-week Personal Essay course,
  • another six-week Project Write Now creative nonfiction class, or
  • commensurate experience in an essay writing workshop elsewhere.

Applications are required for all program participants. Acceptance is based on your commitment and your ability to work together in a community.

We will begin accepting applications on July 1, 2024. If you’d like to be alerted when our application period opens, please contact us at

If you have any questions about our application process, please email us at

Meet Cristina Spencer, Our Personal Essay Lab Peer Artist Leader

CRISTINA SPENCER, a book inc Peer Artist Leader

Cristina Spencer is a writer, translator, and educator. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from The Bennington Writing Seminars. Cristina’s memoir, About Bliss: Fighting for My Trans Son’s Life, Joy, and Fertility, is forthcoming in October 2024. An excerpt from her memoir-in-progress, “Ludicrous,” a meditation on marriage and mortality, was recently published in KHÔRA. She lives in Northern California with her partner, her kids, and their four cats. Competent, compassionate at-home care for her husband makes her writing life possible.