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Telling Our Stories in the Age of COVID-19

Traditional Life Writing

You are already familiar with life writing because you have read samples of (say) autobiographies and diaries in your classes. Below you will find reminders about some of the most popular formats, along with some suggestions for COVID-era topics. Our goal in this space is to help you get started. Remember that knowing the conventions of a writing format does not mean you have to follow them--it’s just a place to begin! You can follow only a few things in the genre, mix genres, or ignore conventions entirely. It’s totally up to you! 


Share Your Story

All submissions will receive a receipt. Please check with individual faculty for extra credit policies.


Definition Sample topics Suggested length 
Autobiography is a story about the self that gives the audience a good view of who you are as a person. Key traits or a theme will usually emerge to give the writing focus. How did you overcome the challenge of… moving back with your family, losing a job, staying safe, fighting off the virus, struggling with distance learning, fighting injustice, not seeing your friends/lover, voting, etc.

At least 2-3 pages. 




Definition Sample topics Suggested length 
Biography is a story you write about someone else. It should focus on a key theme or message as it seeks to describe a person’s unexpected actions or cherished character traits. In the covid-19 context: Describe how your Mom manages to work and take care of the family; how your boss responds to workplace stress; how your teenage siblings manage social distancing (or not); how your nephew acts out because he can’t play outside or with his friends, etc. At least 2-3 pages.


Personal Narrative

Definition Sample topics Suggested length 
Personal narrative is an essay about the self that shares an insight or “ah hah moment” with readers. It will usually describe how you came to that realization and what it means to you or why this lesson could be important for others.

Write about the moment I realized X and how it changed the way I think…. or feel…or why it is important.

Questions to consider: Why should I wear a mask? How is this pandemic historic? How are medical workers heroes? Is the U.S. the best/worst country? Why do Black Lives Matter? When you realized you are a Democrat/Republican/social justice advocate/racist…”’ Is family more important than friends? Is white supremacy still in America and why does it matter? How is life/community/friendships/restaurants/precious? Is distance learning not/for me?

At least 1-2 pages.



Definition Sample topics Suggested length 
A diary is a catalog of daily events, generally including where you went, who you saw, and what you did.

Authors will customize the things they record according to what is important to them as individuals. This may further include wake up and bedtimes, how many hours they spent on certain tasks, what was cooked or eaten for meals, the weather, how they felt, etc. This format would be particularly useful if it includes a paragraph that describes what your life was like before the pandemic so the reader can better appreciate the difference.

At least 1 week of entries.



Definition Sample topics Suggested length
A  journal is used to share personal reflections about anything you are feeling, seeing, and experiencing in your life.
  • What are you feeling /worrying about?
  • What are you doing to cope and stay busy?
  • What decisions are you trying to make?
  • How are people around you reacting?
  • How have your relationships been impacted?
  • What has helped you? If you’re in quarantine or just housebound, how does that feel?
  • What are you noticing and thinking about?
  • Have you identified any silver linings from this experience?
At  least 1-2 pages.



Definition Sample topics Suggested length
An epistle is a letter you write to a real or imagined person. The epistle format can be used to share any type of information, including feelings, anecdotes, and reflections. What changes have you experienced in employment, living arrangements, social interactions, family relationships, school routines, health, finances, mood, emotions? How are you managing or feeling about them? What do you wish for? At least 1-2 pages.