Reading Great Literature, Writing Your Life

Mastering Personal Essay Writing for Successful Summer Program & College Applications

Target Grades: Grade 7 - Grade 10

2020 Fall Schedule:

  • Ten 60-min weekly classes from 9/7 to 11/13.


  • Monday Session: 5-6pm PT (Full)

  • Wednesday Session 1: 3-4pm PT (Full)

  • Wednesday Session 2: 4:30-5:30pm PT (Full)
  • Friday Session: 5-6pm PT (Full)

Contact Polaris to arrange a private class

Course Overview

What is the key to a successful summer program or college application in your high school career? Being able to tell compelling personal stories. While the mastery of the personal essay plays a make-or-break in the admissions process, the genre is rarely taught in English classes in and outside of school. 


This course will focus on the stories that we, as writers, tell others about ourselves and our communities. In order to build our understanding of both the form and function of the personal essay, we will be looking at examples from both creative nonfiction and fiction. Students who complete this course will:

  • Gain the skills needed to execute the genre of personal essay writing that has become essential to any summer program and college application;

  • Cultivate a life-long habit of intensive self-examination and build a unique sense of the self to stand out from thousands of applicants;

  • Develop a genuine appreciation of great literature and a profound love for writing that last for life.

Instructor: Dr. Kemick

Dr. Kemick is an award-winning poet, journalist, and fiction writer. His new nonfiction book, I Am Herod, takes readers backstage and undercover at one of the world’s largest religious events. He is also the author of Caribou Run, a collection of poetry.


Having published widely in all three genres, Dr. Kemick's work has been included in anthologies in Canada and the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of multiple awards including two National Magazine Awards.

PhD. in English/Creative Writing

Dr. Kemick tells about his own story: his obsession with his meticulously crafted miniature Christmas village. 

Lesson Plan

  1. Introduction

  2. The Building Blocks of Creative Nonfiction

  3. Reading Like a Writer

  4. The Grit of Grammar

  5. Clarity and Argument

  6. Mastering the Metaphor

  7. Writing for Your Audience

  8. The Grit of Grammar (The Sequel)

  9. Editorial Workshops

  10. Final Drafts / Conclusion

Homework & Feedback

Classes will be structured around a close-reading of texts and a discussion of their merits and faults. Students will be encouraged to offer examples of writing that they enjoy in order for each session to be tailored to their interests. 

Students will also be urged to bring new writing (approximately 100-250 words) to each class for the instructor to edit and provide feedback; doing so will enable the student to have written and completed an exemplary personal essay by the conclusion of the course. 

Upon completion of the course, each student will receive overall feedback from the instructor.

Student Testimonials

"Richard was approachable, friendly, and enthusiastic, which made me want to come to class. I learned a lot from him." 


"Richard was very approachable and very helpful. He explained everything with great detail, and he made the tutorial very fun and entertaining."


"Richard’s enthusiasm and humor approach to the course made it entertaining while also making it easy to learn."


"Richard has a very unique way of explaining things which have proved to be very helpful."

Phone: +1(425) 898-3340


Address: 8153 161st Avenue Northeast, Redmond, WA 98052

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