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Up Close and Personal: Getting Your Personal Essay Into the World
Publishing a personal essay is a multi-pronged feat. There’s the time it takes for an idea to coalesce in your mind, the process of getting it down on the page, the craft of revising your essay until it is both specifically felt and universally understood, and finally, sharing it with an audience. What’s more, personal essays these days can fall into a number of categories: the “think piece,” the “quick hit,” the feature-length examination, or even the reported essay.

In this panel, writing wunderkinds Hanif Abdurraquib (A Little Devil In America), Sesali Bowen (Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes From a Trap Feminist), and David Dennis Jr. (The Movement Made Us) share their paths to honing their voices, finding the right outlets, and getting published.

May 22, 2021 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle,PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in 2016 and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in 2017 and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest in 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House.
Sesali Bowen
Sesali Bowen is a multifaceted writer, media personality, and cultural commentator with a knack for plus-sized style. She is the former Senior Entertainment Editor at NYLON magazine, one of the architects of Refinery29's Unbothered, and the author of the forthcoming memoir/manifesto, Notes From A Trap Feminist (Amistad, 2021). Sesali got her feet officially wet in television writing on the series Black Equals Beauty, and she is also the creator, producer, and co-host of Purse First, a podcast about the culture of femme rap. She was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, loves press on nails and direct deposits, and currently lives in New Jersey.
David Dennis Jr.
David Dennis Jr. is a freelance writer, editor, educator, and social commentator based in Atlanta, Georgia. His work has been featured in Atlanta magazine, The Atlantic, ESPN’s The Undefeated, The Washington Post, HuffPost, and numerous publications on Medium, and he is a 2020 recipient of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize. Dennis Jr. is currently writing a book entitled The Movement Made Us, which is set to be published next year by HarperCollins, about his father’s experience in the Civil Rights Movement. Written from a first-person perspective, the book is a study of memory—both individual and collective—and the trauma and perseverance that can be passed down in Black families, especially from fathers to sons.