Writing the personal essay is my favorite genre of creative writing. At this moment I've got a children's picture book idea I'm struggling with; many drafts of it written but I can't find the key to make it into a compelling story (this can go on for years as it did once with another picture book that ended up getting published but it took a decade.) I also have a finished novel that I haven't looked at in three years (when it got six rejections) and I'm revving up courage now to go back to it and do another draft. And I'm a third of the way through a non-fiction book, Kicking In the Wall, already sold that I told you about a few posts back. All of these projects can feel like a very long marriage.
An essay on the other hand is a fling. It's like dating. You're not commiting to it for years on end and it can be a really short date - 350 words – or it can go to 700 words or three thousand depending on the subject and the market you're trying for. Another wonderful thing about essays is that you can get them published more easily than any other genre. Fame and fortune are rarely involved, but you can build up solid credits as a writer publishing essays.
This is kind of a commercial (Yes, it's the M.W. again) - I'm teaching the personal essay for two days in March and hope some of you will come. The first Saturday we'll bat around ideas, discuss published essays and anthologies, and get started writing a short essay. If you already have an essay in progress you'll get guidelines on how to polish and deepen it. And also more ideas for future essays. Then a week to work on one specific essay - and the following Saturday a workshop to get feedback on it, plus marketing suggestions. If you have any questions email me at B.Abercrombie@verizon.net or leave a comment.
Here's the official description of the course – Saturday March 3rd and 10th at UCLA Extension:
Writing the Personal Essay: A Weekend Workshop
"Personal Essay" is a broad term that encompasses both serious and humorous essays, opinion pieces, and first person articles, but which always details the writer's journey through a specific experience. This workshop teaches aspiring personal essayists how to be a compelling first-person narrator and employ craft elements such as theme, character development, voice, pacing, scene-setting, and exposition to tell their stories. The goal is to complete at least 1 personal essay (500-1,500 words) and develop material for future essays.