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Insider / Outsider: Writing the Participatory Essay

with Summer Block in Burbank

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Summer Block

Two Saturdays
10:00 am to 1:00 pm
December 1 and December 15, 2018

This class is dedicated to getting out from behind the keyboard and into the weird, wide world of Los Angeles to write “gonzo” nonfiction that straddles the border between observation and participation. More personal than journalism, more outward-looking than memoir, these hybrid essays combine personal insights with investigation, research, and adventure.

In the first session, we'll read and discuss essays that take us from hippie communes to Amway sales meetings to witches’ covens and beyond. Students will also have the opportunity to develop and refine their own essay ideas. Then, during a two-week break, students will head out to observe, experience, and document a cultural event of their choosing. Students will return for the second session with a rough draft to workshop together.

This seminar is open to students of all levels. It will be held in Burbank where coffee, sparkling water, and light snacks will be served.


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Summer Block has contributed essays, short fiction, and poetry to The Toast, The Awl, The Rumpus, Catapult, The Nervous Breakdown, McSweeney's, PANK, and many other places. Her work has been featured in several anthologies, most recently California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Golden State. She is currently working on a book about occult communities in the San Fernando Valley.


“Summer is a great teacher. She went above and beyond with her written feedback, which was so extensive and thoughtful, and so helpful. She also is one of those teachers who manages to find something intelligent and supportive about everything we read in class . . . I really, really enjoyed this class and the warm, fun atmosphere Summer created."