I love the personal essay. As a literature genre. As reading enjoyment. But most of all, I love to WRITE personal essays. Since I discovered this in 2007, I've had eight personal essays published (see list with links on the left side of this page) and one was even a finalist in a literary competition. So, whether or not my novel-in-progress ever gets published, I know I'll always write essays.
If you've got a hankering to write them, I have 3 words for you:
Creative Nonfiction Conference
The one in Oxford, Mississippi, that I'm co-directing in November.
And if you register for this conference, you get to choose from among the pre-conference workshops, including Neil White's workshop on "The Personal Essay," and also Dinty Moore's manuscript critique workshop.
Okay, Dinty's workshop isn't specific to essays, but I took his critique workshop in 2008 and it was awesome. And October's Writer's Digest Magazine has a great article by Dinty called "Write Your Essay the Reader-Friendly Way." Whether or not you're coming to the conference in November, if you write essays, or want to write them, you should read this. Here's a teaser:
1. Be clear about the destination. "An essay needs a lighted sign right up front telling readers where they are going.Otherwise the passengers will be distracted and nervous at each stop along the way, unsure of the destination, not at all able to enjoy the ride." I think here about the phrase, "keeping the reader safe."
2. Stay On Track (more or less).
3. Find a healthy distance. "Why is finding a distance important? Because the private essay hides the author. The personal essay reveals."
Intrigued? Get the October issue of Reader's Digest and read the entire article. And come to Oxford to meet Dinty in November!