Writing the (Modern) Love Essay

with Paz Pardo


January 31, 2024
4 Weeks


Writing the (Modern) Love Essay is a nonfiction course for writers of all levels interested in transforming their lived experience of romance into an essay. You’ll learn how to transfer your story of love onto the page in a compelling, authentic way, while avoiding the pitfalls of cliché.

We will read essays from the New York Times’s Modern Love and Tiny love series; excerpts from longer form memoir by Ocean Vuong, Sophie Calle, and Elizabeth McCracken, among others; poetry by Frank O’Hara; monologues from documentary theater by Leigh Fondakowski. Always, we’ll be searching for the methods and tactics other authors used to tackle the challenge of finding fresh ways to write about love. Always, we’ll be looking for how you can steal their tools. You will look at how specificity, voice, and form hook the reader and keep them reading. Then, you will apply these lessons to your own work.

Over four weeks, you will work your way from concept to a full draft of an essay. Your piece will be workshopped by the group, providing concrete feedback for revision. We will also talk about the personal essay market, how to know when your work is ready for submission, and how a short essay can be a jumping off point for longer work.

At the end of the class, you will have taken the raw material of life and shaped it into a tight and intriguing piece of nonfiction writing.

Learning Goals

  • Learn to use specifics to fend off the danger of falling into clichéd language or imagery
  • Discover how a clear voice carries the reader through a piece
  • Identify the mechanics of how different forms of essay support different stories

Writing Goals

  • Write and workshop a full essay

Zoom Schedule

We will meet on Zoom Thursdays, starting February 1st, from 7-9pm Eastern. 

Weekly Syllabus 

Week 1. Devil’s in the Details: Specifics

The specifics of a love story are what make it unique, what make the reader really feel like they’re there, and what allow you to avoid the dreaded cliché.

This week, you’ll map out specifics of your love story: not just what happened, but how it felt—across all five senses.

Week 2. Comic, Tragic, Epic, Other: Form

You’ll explore different forms for the love essay—from tiny to full-length, comic to epic—drawn from the New York Times’ Modern Love and beyond. You’ll consider how they work as vehicles to get their stories of love across to the reader.

This week, you’ll identify an ideal form for your love essay.

Week 3. Siren song: Voice

How does the “voice” of a love essay drive it? How does it keep the reader moving along?

This week, you’ll zero in on the voice of your love essay.

Week 4. Workshop

This week, you’ll workshop the full draft of your essay with the class. You’ll leave with actionable notes for revision, and ideas for publication venues if you’re interested in submitting your work.

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Student Feedback for Paz Pardo:

Paz has provided me with some of the best feedback I’ve ever received on my writing. Even in early stages of a project she is able to identify key unanswered questions that inspired me and drove me forward in my subsequent drafts. Her comments are focused, identifying the most important areas to address, instead of providing a laundry list of comments. Finally, Paz has this gift of offering both love and encouragement with her direct, honest and insightful feedback. Working with her is always rigorous, exhilarating and full of joy. George Bazett

January 31, 2024
4 Weeks


paz pardo headshot


Paz Pardo’s writing has been featured in The New York Times Modern Love column, LitHubThe Brooklyn Review, The I Scream Social Anthology: Volume 1, and Howlround Theater Commons, among other venues. Her novel The Shamshine Blind was selected as one of the best scifi/fantasy novels of 2023 by Library Journal and one of the best debuts by Crimereads. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers in 2018.