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With essays in The New Yorker, bestselling books like Calypso, tours, and readings on NPR, David Sedaris is one of the most recognizable essayists alive. Now he teaches you the art of personal storytelling. Learn how David crafts attention-grabbing openings, satisfying endings, and meaning from the mundane—and how he uses humor to connect with others and process the difficult and sometimes dark aspects of everyday life.
Browse Lesson Plan
Meet your new instructor: New York Times–bestselling author and humorist David Sedaris. David shares his thoughts on what you need to be a writer, how bad experiences become funny, and how everyone’s life is worth writing about.
2. Observing the World
David teaches you how to ask better questions, let stories land in your lap, and not ruin the moment when an idea for a story is unfolding before you.
3. Turning Observations Into Stories
Using examples from his own writing, David shows you how to take ideas from your diary and start expanding them into an essay.
4. Breaking Into a Story
The opening line is everything. David talks through multiple failed openings to his essay “Understanding Owls” and discusses how he landed on the final, published version.
5. Connecting to Your Reader
David gives you tips for making yourself relatable as a protagonist in your essays. He also covers how to structure the humor and content of your writing so that audiences can find something to connect to.
6. Writing About Loved Ones
7. Story Evolution: "Active Shooter"
Starting with a diary entry, David reads multiple drafts of the beginning of what eventually became his New Yorker essay “Active Shooter.”
8. Kitchen Sink Stories: Live in Cleveland
Get a behind-the-scenes look at David’s workshop process while he’s touring and watch as he tries a piece for the first time at a public reading in Cleveland.
9. Ending With Weight
Humor isn’t memorable when it doesn’t mean something. David teaches you how to turn your essay from a purely comedic piece into writing with meaning.
10. Revision Philosophy
David shares his approach to rewriting, with an eye toward digging deeper into your stories and making the most of your funny moments.
11. Growing as a Writer
David talks about how to learn from live readings, conduct readings of your own, and behave when your work is published in the world.
12. David's Influences
David shares some of his favorite stories and writers and explains how to learn from them.
13. Conclusion: Two Groups of People
To end, David gives you heartfelt advice about writing every day, not confusing writing with publishing, and just how possible it is to become a writer.
14. Bonus Reading: "The Spirit World"
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