Before and After: Reflecting on the Pandemic and Other Hard Times |
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Before and After: Reflecting on the Pandemic and Other Hard Times

Course Starts

March 14, 2023

Course Time (CST)

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Course Type


Course Ends

March 21, 2023

Course Cost


How has the pandemic changed my life? What has been the worst of it, and the best? How do we navigate hard times?

These questions matter, and yet they often get lost in the press of daily life.  Writing about them is a way to reflect on the life-changing event we’ve all endured, and to record our experiences while they still are vivid.

For those who want to want to write about their experiences with the pandemic or other hardships, this workshop offers tips, discussion, voluntary short exercises and examples of essays and novels that do that job well. We’ll examine cultural myths that hard times challenge, as historian Kate Bowler, for example, does in “Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved.) The course also is suitable for those who don’t want to write but but simply want to discuss and read about this subject.

This much we know. Powerful experiences divide life into before and after.  Life before the worst of the pandemic, and after. Life before a loved one’s death, and after.  Life before the accident, and after.  We’ll explore the ways writers mine hardship and loss for insight, and how we can too.  Excerpts of other work we’ll discuss include the moving essay “On Witness and Respair” by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and  the novel ”Lucy by the Sea,” by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.


SCHOLARSHIP AVAILABLE: There is one (1) scholarship available for this course. Students of need are encouraged to apply through our Scholarship Application page.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS COURSE? Visit our FAQ page or e-mail Operations Manager Matt Rezin.

DISCOUNT FOR ACADEMY MEMBERS: Members receive a 10% discount Member Rate on this course (discount applied during registration). Not an Academy member? Choose the "Member Rate + Membership" option during registration to receive your discount rate. Academy Members receive discounts on courses, contests, and ticketed events, as well as an annual subscription to Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine.



Marja Mills is a journalist and bestselling author. She teaches and consults on writing projects.

Her memoir, The Mockingbird Next Door, was a New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of her friendship with Harper Lee and her sister Alice in their Alabama hometown. Mills was a news reporter and feature writer at...

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