The Personal Essay: Opportunities and Traps

The Personal Essay: Opportunities and Traps

By Rosaleen Bertolino


We are in for a unique and rich treat for readers and writers interested in exploring the personal essay with the acclaimed writer, Iraj Isaac Rahmin. Rahmim will begin with a reading of his work and then we’ll move to an interview and discussion with the audience. 


The personal essay is a form of “interior journalism,” which allows the writer to excavate his/her past, to dig into the darker corners, and to inform and thrill by creating something beautiful. But, Rahmim says, “the writer must go further; she must move on from the ‘me’ toward the ‘us.’ That is, she must use herself as an exhibit to help illuminate our common struggles and the human condition.” During this unique presentation, we will learn about both the opportunities for the writer of the personal essay as well as the traps. 


The market for the personal essay is large and varied, ranging from small, university-based literary journals to popular magazines, and who better to read, teach, and answer your questions about this genre than this award-winning writer whose essays and fiction have appeared in Antioch Review, Commentary, Commonweal, Fugue, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Houston Chronicle, The Missouri Review, Reason, Rosebud, and Zócalo Public Square, and have been broadcast by Pacifica Radio and anthologized by Greenhaven Press and the University of Texas Press. 


Rahmim is a MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, and VCCA fellow; a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Nonfiction scholar; twice first-prize winner in prose (nonfiction) from Fugue; and winner of the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Fiction Contest. His writing has been selected six times as Notable Essays by the Best American Series, twice nominated for and received a Special Mention for the Pushcart Prize, nominated by the Sewanee Writers’ Conference for Best New American Voices, and awarded a fellowship in literature by the Texas Commission of the Arts. He is also the US winner of the 2017 VCCA Goldfarb Family Fellowship in Nonfiction.


A member of the nonfiction faculty at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, Rahmim is offering a conference workshop on the personal essay in March, as well as individual consultations. A 2019-2022 member of the VCCA Fellows Council, Rahmim is working on a memoir about his life in Iran. 


The accomplished Rahmim also holds a PhD in biochemical engineering from Columbia University and has been awarded over 20 patents worldwide on energy technologies. 


This promises to be an unforgettable event.


The San Miguel Prose Café is an all-volunteer organization presenting local and visiting writers, both established and emerging. All events are free, but donations are gratefully accepted and go to support the San Miguel Literary Sala. During our current season online, registration in advance is required. Go to to sign-up. Those of you tuning in from out of town, please remember the event is 5-6pm.