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Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings . . . it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.  

- Virginia Woolf

“Since Woolf wrote these words there has been a burgeoning of illness literature,” says instructor Gila Lyons, “literature that chronicles the experience of the body and mind in sickness, and sometimes the journey back to health, other times the adjustment to a new normal.”

In this online class, we’ll read and discuss some of the most evocative illness and healing writing of our time, including work from Porochista Khakpour, Esmé Weijun Wang, and Semezdin Mehmedinović. We’ll explore the sub-themes of illness, including disability, mental health, chronic pain, and disparities of health outcomes and access to treatment across various populations. Guided by readings, discussions, and in-class exercises, we’ll write our own journeys through “the night-side of life,” as Susan Sontag describes illness, while we consider craft elements such as tone, pacing, dramatic structure, and point of view. There will be opportunities to share writing and receive feedback from the class and instructor, if desired.

“Because of the sensitive and personal nature of this nonfiction content, extra care will be taken to ensure a safe, supportive, and confidential class environment,” Gila says. “Writers will develop an appreciation for and understanding of illness writing in the literary canon, and create art and wisdom from their own often chaotic and overwhelming experiences of illness.”


About The Writing Salon's Remote Classes

Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, The Writing Salon is running all classes in a remote learning format. You will be able to participate in live class meetings via Zoom videoconference. To attend classes, you'll need a phone, tablet or computer and access to the internet. You can participate in the class from wherever you'd like, whether on your living room couch or in your office. Before your class meets, you'll receive an email from The Writing Salon with more information about Zoom and your remote class. If you have any questions about remote learning, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at hello@writingsalons.com.



    Gila Lyons‘ writing has appeared in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Healthline, Health Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Vice, Vox, The Huffington Post, Salon, Poets & Writers, and other publications. Her pieces have been anthologized in books and anthologies, most recently in ABOUT US: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times. Gila has served as one of three “Alices” at Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University’s award-winning health and sexuality website, as well as a health writer for The Chopra Center and KHealth. She holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

  1. Live Zoom Meeting: Saturday, July 17, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  2. Live Zoom Meeting: Saturday, July 24, 2:00pm-4:30pm
  3. Live Zoom Meeting: Saturday, July 31, 2:00pm-4:30pm


Sat, July 17 @ 9:00 pm PDT
Sat, July 31 @ 11:30 pm PDT
Event Category:


Online (Synchronous)
Live Remote Meetings, ZOOM
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Registration Deadline

Registration closes 24 hours before the start time for a class.

Cancellation Policy

10 days or more before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 10% fee OR a refund minus a 20% fee.

3-9 days before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 20% fee OR a refund minus a 30% fee.

2 days or less before the start date for a class, the registrant will not receive a credit or a refund.

The Writing Salon cannot offer refunds, credits, or makeup sessions for classes a student might miss.

In the event of an emergency, we may consider a refund or credit, whether partial or full. We review these requests on a case-by-case basis, and we ask that you notify us as near as possible to the start date for the class.

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