First-person essays span space, time and subject: The city dump, an obsessive bird or a toy from the ’60sall subjects of essays I’ve publishedcan come up with just one shuffle of an endless deck of compelling themes.
Mongrel lot or not, it’s never the subject of an essay that tells, but the style and stance of its author.
It’s difficult to read that lead and avoid doing what it requests, at least in your imagination.
Here’s another lead of mine that takes a different tack, one of identification or empathy: Scuttlebutt had it that Barbara Cartland, the doyenne of romance writers, did much of her early writing at the piano, stark naked.
Sometimes a question that has a universal appeal can accomplish this: MARKETSWriter’s Market Writer’s Digest Books; The dean of market directories, with listings of many publications that publish personal essays, including submission tips and pay rates.
Online writing about writing: There are a number of online venues that publish essays about writing, though compensation is small.You don’t need glasses to find your topicsjust a willingness to see them. Some essays wrap blunt opinions in layered language, ensnaring a reader with charm, not coercion.Louis Lapham’s essays often take a political angle, but any advocacy is cloaked in beguiling prose.Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work-the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside-the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once.There is another sort of blow that comes from within-that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. F.Look at Absolute Write.com, Writer On Line.us, Writers or Writer’s Digest also has a monthly online contest for essays; go to more information. Often local newspapers will print first-person pieces that provide perspective on issues relevant to the area.Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936) Subjects float all around you.Should you write about baseball, bacteria or bougain-villeas?Essays are personalthe best of them can seem like a conversation with an intelligent, provocative friend, but one with remarkable discretion in editing out the extraneous.Whether the word “I” appears at all, you must be in your essay, and pungently. Cranky, apprehensive or playful, your candid voice should be a constant. Here’s the lead from an article of mine about dictionaries: Think of your favorite book.