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Elements of Portraiture in Nonfiction Zoom Seminar, June 25th, 2022
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Elements of Portraiture in Nonfiction Zoom Seminar, June 25th, 2022

Unit price per

Saturday, June 25th, 2022

Live Seminar Via Zoom at 11AM - 1PM CST

Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.

Taught by Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction. Jill wrote “The Last Year,” a year-long column that appeared online in The Paris Review. Her work has been recognized four times in The Best American Essays.

"To fashion a persona out of one’s undisguised self is no easy thing,” writes Vivian Gornick in The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative.

It’s important, she points out, to know “who is speaking.” To create a persona, essayists turn a lens on themselves to select the aspects of their identity that will advance the why of the essay.

So much attention is given to persona in craft books and essays—the distinction between the “I” of the writer and the “I” on the page. But what about the other people in the essay?

In writing people, essayists must also train the lens on the family members, strangers, lovers, or childhood friends that they write about through description and detail to craft effective portraiture, to show who is (or was) in the room, on the train, outside the window.

Think of a person you’ve read about in an essay, one who stays with you, “some scene [that] remains bright, some figure [that] lives on in the depths of the mind.” Virginia Woolf closes her essay, “The Art of Biography,” in this way to describe the familiarity readers experience when a biographer captures a person through careful construction, by “hanging up looking glasses in odd corners.”

Her suggestions: “When and where did the real man live; how did he look; did he wear laced boots or elastic-slided; who were his aunts, and his friends, how did he blow his nose; whom did he love, and how . . . . by sifting the little from the big and shaping the whole,” she explains, the biographer “stimulate[s] the imagination.” Of course, we’re not concerned with biography in this seminar. We will focus on presenting a portraiture of a person—in a clause or a paragraph or a few pages—to stimulate the imagination, to allow the reader to see and know the person.

During the seminar, Jill will identify elements of portraiture, and she’ll point to great essays and excerpts from outstanding memoirs or immersion journalism to offer models that clearly creates the person, in varied and nuanced ways, to the reader. You’ll also get to write a portraiture or two of your own. This seminar—that you can attend from your couch, desk, or kitchen table—will end with a Q&A.

*Essays and excerpts will be emailed to enrolled students prior to the seminar.

*A recording of this seminar will be made available to enrolled writers who cannot attend live.

  • The elements of portraiture
  • Practice in writing portraiture
  • Ideas for self-portraiture
  • How to use portraiture to develop a scene
  • "Jill has a specific way of teaching a workshop that I find more conducive to learning new ways of thinking about the essay than any other workshop I've been in. I'm always blown away by how much my essaying improves at the end of a class from her."
  • "Jill has done more to expand my understanding of the essay than any I have encountered."
  • "Jill seems to always know just what to say to improve my work and it's always fantastic advice."


This class will meet via Zoom on Saturday, June 25th, 2022 from 11AM - 1PM CST

You can pay for the course in full or use Shop Pay or Affirm to pay over time with equal Monthly Payments. These options are available at checkout.
  • Instructor: Jill Talbot

  • Saturday, June 25th, 2022 | 11AM - 1PM CST

  • Seminar is fully ONLINE and meets via Zoom

Contact us HERE if you have any questions about this seminar.

Instructor Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction, the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in journals such as AGNI, Brevity, Colorado Review, Diagram, Hotel Amerika, The Normal School, and The Paris Review Daily and has been recognized four times in The Best American Essays. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Texas.

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