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This Time It's Personal: Crafting Your Narrative

Personal essay and stories from your own experience - these are exceptionally difficult to do well. They require that you retain some distance from your subject, which is nuts because it's you. Nevertheless, you need to develop the ability to shape your experience into clear, compelling prose and your own self into a vivid character.

Whether you're interested in writing for the page, or for live lit performance, the skills are the same. Whether your eventual goal is a book (memoir or essay collection) or a solo show, you need to cultivate the same sensibilities, the same artistry, the same courage and candor. 

Thie workshop will focus on helping you acquire the skills and confidence needed to make your singular history come alive to a reader or audience, to make your indiviudal style and voice emerge to its fullest power.

Weekly assignments with detailed feedback. Subjects and strategies will include (but aren't limited to): how to avoid self-indulgence, how to find the meaning in your experience, how to uncover the details that will make your stories and essays vivid and gripping.

Thursdays 7-9pm

Jan 26 - Mar 2

Compass Creative Dramatics - 4001 N Ravenswood (at Irving) #110

Cost: $325 - payment plans available

Email ian.belknap1@gmail w/ questions/to enroll



Blood, Bone, and Badassery 3

This ongoing series of workshops is for writers who are serious about writing about their own lives and experience, and who wish to hammer the unruly events and people of their pasts into a collection of personal essays or book-length memoirs. 

We have a core crew who've undergone the first couple rounds, but have just a couple of slots remaining. 

Compass Creative Dramatics - 4001 N Ravenswood, Suite 110

Mondays, 7 - 9pm

1/9/17 - 2/13/17

$325 - payment plans available, if needed

Email interest/questions to


Busting a Gut: Humor in Writing and Performance

John Hodgman - who is consistently funny, in person and on the page - once remarked that he has a contempt for and aversion to the punchline. I agree with him. Real comedy - be it delivered in performance (standup, sketch, improv) or in writing (essay, comic memoir, graphic novel) - is more dependent upon freshness of perspective, deep observation, and strength of voice than it is upon hard and fast "rules" of form.

In this class, you can explore the two sides of the same coin - creating and delivering comedic material that is to be spoken, and that is to be read. 

For the past 20+ years, I've been devoting my creative life to the prospect that comedic writing and performance is and should be as substantive and meaningful as drama or essay-writing, or any of the more "prestige-y" forms of expression. Except opera. Opera can suck it.

Likely I am wrong in this belief. But I can say from exprience that people are way more inclined to listen to you or read you if you offer them a laugh along the way. Seriously - you can trick them into rooting for the cannibal, you can seduce them into cheering for the overdog, you can lull them into hearing whatever you have to say, however objectionable it might be.

I'm offering this class at Compass Creative Dramatics - 4001 N Ravenswood, Suite 110.

Wednesdays, 7-9pm

Jan 25 - Mar 1

$325 - payment plan available if you need.

Enrollment limited to 12.

Email interest/questions to



Blood, Bone & Badassery 2


Blood, Bone, and Badassery - 
This Time It's Personal.
Investing your stories and essays with the guts and moxie to make them great; making work that is not merely good but riveting.
Cost: $395 (discounts available, payment plans available)
Bespeak Studio
Mondays 7-9pm
Nov 14
Nov 21
Nov 28
Dec 5
Dec 12
Dec 19


Hit CONTACT link to learn more, or email me:


Serious is the Rubber Chicken - The Craft of the Humorous Essay

What: If you read McSweeney's and go "Pssssh. I could do that," then this is the class for you. We'll dissect outstanding examples of the humorous essay and you'll create your own. 

Please note: this is NOT a joke-writing class (though we will be writing jokes); this is not a sketch-writing class; this is not a stand-up class. 

If you've ever gone "Those twee little hacks at the New Yorker are getting on my last nerve," or "Good god, Onion, you've done it again," then come learn how to hone and refine your own stuff, whether personal essay, cultural criticism, or just good old ranting, this is the workshop where you can find and sharpen your comedic voice and learn how to colonize the minds of others with the funny of your words.

When: Monday nights, 7-9pm for 6 weeks

Oct 3 - Nov 7

Where: Bespeak Studio 737 W Wrightwood (E of Halsted)


How much: $395