The Essays Only You Can Write
  • Publication Date: October 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815760 / 1554815762
  • 224 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Essays Only You Can Write

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815760 / 1554815762
  • 224 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Essays Only You Can Write offers a perspective on essay writing that spotlights a writer’s uniqueness. Resisting the perception that personal and academic writing are at odds with one another, it treats the impulse to write “personally” as potential fuel for a variety of writing purposes.

The book encourages students to think like academics—pursuing their enthusiasms, trusting their ideas, and questioning their conclusions—by leading them through three main writing assignments: a personal essay, an essay based on texts, and a research essay. Each chapter offers exercises and strategies for various stages in the pre-writing, drafting, and revision processes. Freewriting; extensive attention to planning; devising a structure and order of ideas that both promote and reflect engagement with a topic; developing rhetorical awareness and knowledge of conventions; and an advocacy for expressive, socially-responsible writing—all are central elements of the text’s instruction.

By acknowledging the emotions inherent in the writing process, many of which can muddle thinking—I don’t want anyone to see this; what if I make mistakes?; what if the writing isn’t good?; I don’t want to be critiqued; etc.—Papoulis helps beginning college writers to navigate the psychological as well as the technical roadblocks that can get in the way of their best personal and academic writing.

Instructor Resources covering all aspects of the book are included on a passcoded webpage.


The Essays Only You Can Write offers a large dose of relief and new hope to instructors of first-year writing courses. Every chapter of the book focuses on the value of each student’s own thinking and each student’s own experiences and language resources (rather than anything possibly producible by AI) as the essential elements for meeting every kind of writing challenge posed by the undergraduate classroom. The text will allow first-year composition classes to return to their ideal function of ushering students into a college community, where they can begin to discover themselves as legitimate members who are both learners and contributors to the enterprise of learning.” — Sheridan Blau, Professor of Practice in the Teaching of English, Teachers College, Columbia University

“It is no secret that many students dread writing—it often feels disconnected from their interests and areas of study. The Essays Only You Can Write presents students with a vital guide to essay writing that foregrounds the important fact that ‘essays of all sorts are an invaluable form of expression.’ This is a text that welcomes readers into a community of writers by sharing a wealth of innovative tips and imaginative strategies while also presenting the writing process as an importantly personal domain. Irene Papoulis has written so much more than a book; The Essays Only You Can Write guides students through the various stages and myriad forms of essaying, and the voices one might don while doing so.” — erica j. kaufman, Director, Bard College Institute for Writing & Thinking

“If you’re anxious about AI technologies and instead want to steer students toward more mindful, analog explorations of themselves and their worlds, this book will be your thoughtful guide. Papoulis champions the personal and research essay genres, and she offers wise and humane coaching for all stages of the writing process. By modeling a ‘Journal of Noticings,’ a ‘Journal of Questions,’ and strategies for mindfulness, Papoulis integrates fresh ideas with time-tested approaches to personal and research essay writing.” — Tom Deans, University of Connecticut

Preface for Students
Introduction: Starting Ideas and Fundamental Practices

Part One: Writing a Personal Essay

  • Chapter 1: Get to Know the Personal Essay as a Genre and Move towards Your Own
  • Chapter 2: Find a Way to Structure and Compose Your Personal Essay
  • Chapter 3: Get Feedback on Your Draft and Revise It

Part Two: Writing an Essay about a Text

  • Chapter 4: On Reading and Writing about Texts
  • Chapter 5: Read and Respond to Your Assigned Text
  • Chapter 6: Write Your Essay about a Text
  • Chapter 7: Learn from Other Writers as You Revise Your Draft

Part Three: Writing a Research Essay

  • Chapter 8: Confront Your Research Assignment
  • Chapter 9: Do Your Research
  • Chapter 10: Write Your Research Essay
  • Chapter 11: Get Feedback on Your Draft and Revise It

Part Four: Mindfulness and Essay Writing

  • Chapter 12: Introductory Thoughts on Mindfulness
  • Chapter 13: The Psychology of Writing

Part Five: Giving and Receiving Feedback in Peer Groups

  • Chapter 14: The Psychology of Feedback
  • Chapter 15: Being a Peer Responder

Works Cited
Image Credits

Irene Papoulis is Principal Lecturer in the Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric at Trinity College, and Director of Academic Advising and Faculty Development in Trinity’s Center for Academic and Experiential Advising. She is also a longtime Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College.

  • • Twelve week-by-week exercises that lead students through three core writing assignments (personal essay; essay based on texts; research essay)
  • • Practical, intuitive organization; easy to integrate into the classroom
  • • Compact
  • • Full sections devoted to the psychology of writing and to peer feedback
  • • Acknowledgement throughout of the difficulties and frustrations that arise for student writers
  • • Plentiful examples, including student perspectives and experiences
  • • Exceedingly attentive to student engagement
  • • Online Instructor Resources include ideas and strategies for working with students on each part of the book and general thoughts on mindfulness and peer review

The Essays Only You Can Write is accompanied by an instructor resource website. This site hosts letters to the instructor that provide advice on assignments, classroom activities, readings, and grading, and include additional writing prompts as well as guidance on mindfulness and general classroom pedagogy.