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Study Up on Essays

As most of you discovered last month, my love for fantasy is vast, but I have a secret...I'm not very good at writing fantasy.

Though fantasy, and fiction as a whole, has always been my favorite thing to read or watch, I feel I lack the proper creativity to mastermind entirely new worlds with magic systems and well-rounded casts of characters. BUT what I am good at, is writing what I know. I'm an essayist at heart, and in practice.

I know most of you think of formal essays you wrote in high school or college (research, argumentative, persuasive, etc.), but what I mean to focus on is the personal essay in creative nonfiction (CNF). The beauty of essays in CNF is that they can be about anything you want, and they can take any form. In French essay means "to attempt" or "to try," which really opens up the floor. Any time you write an essay, you make an attempt at relaying some Truth. Whether that's proven fact, or personal truth will set the tone and the form for your essay.

In college, I majored in CNF and I learned a lot about how to write essays. One of the books I learned a lot from was Phillip Lopate's To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. Lopate is an English professor and a prolific nonfiction author, and I think is best known for his anthology The Art of the Personal Essay. In To Show and To Tell, Lopate explores creative, or literary, nonfiction as an art form. It's not so much a how-to as a sort of pedagogic exploration of his experience in writing and teaching the essay.

Lopate shares his thoughts on everything from writing one's self as a character, to writing about other people, to journaling, to different forms of essays. It's not a quick or easy read, but it does give you a look inside the head of a master of his craft. If you're looking to better your understanding of the essay and it's capabilities, then I highly recommend To Show and To Tell!

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