Crafting the Personal Essay - Writer's Digest

Crafting the Personal Essay

Writing and publishing creative nonfiction. 
Publish date:

Crafting the Personal Essay
Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction
by Dinty W. Moore
ISBN 978-1-58297-796-6
$17.99, paperback, 272 pages


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Read a Q&A with the author
Author Dinty W. Moore talks about not taking shortcuts and the importance of perseverance and a love for writing in this exclusive interview.

Read an excerpt
Author Dinty W. Moore discusses the differences between writing an essay and private writing in this excerpt from Crafting the Personal Essay.

About the Book

Award winning essayist Scott Russell Sanders once compared the art of essay writing to “the pursuit of mental rabbits”—a rambling through thickets of thought in search of some brief glimmer of fuzzy truth. While some people persist in the belief that essays are stuffy and antiquated, the truth is that the personal essay is an ever-changing creative medium that provides an ideal vehicle for satisfying the human urge to document truths as we experience them and share them with others—to capture a bit of life on paper.

Crafting the Personal Essay is designed to help you explore the flexibility and power of the personal essay in your own writing. This hands-on, creativity-expanding guide will help you infuse your nonfiction with honesty, personality, and energy. You’ll discover:

• An exploration of the basics of essay writing
• Ways to step back and scrutinize your experiences in order to separate out what may be fresh, powerful, surprising or fascinating to a reader
• How to move past private “journaling” and write for an audience
• How to write eight different types of essays including memoir, travel, humor, and nature essays among others
• Instruction for revision and strategies for getting published

Brimming with helpful examples, exercises, and sample essays, this indispensable guide will help your personal essays transcend the merely private to become powerfully universal.

About the Author

Dinty W. Moore’s essays and stories have appeared in numerous publications including The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, and Utne Reader. His books include Between Panic & Desire, The Accidental Buddhist, Toothpick Men, The Emperor’s Virtual Clothes, and The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.

Table of Contents
Introduction: The Personal Essay, Here and Now 1

Part One: Writing the Essay

1 The Gentle Art of the Personal Essay 4
2 The Personal (Not Private) Essay 7
3 Writing the Memoir Essay 26
4 The Woolf and the Moth 38
5 Writing the Contemplative Essay 51
6 A Closer Look: “Leisure,” by Agnes Repplier 59
7 Pursuing Mental Rabbits 75
8 Writing the Lyric Essay 92
9 Of Conflict 99
10 A Closer Look: “Ah Wilderness!” by Dinty W. Moore 113
11 Writing the Spiritual Essay 132
12 Who Am I Today? 139
13 Writing the Gastronomical Essay 152
14 Writing the Humorous Essay 159
15 A Closer Look: “Pulling Teeth,” by Dinty W. Moore 166
16 Write What You Wish You Knew 172
17 Writing the Nature Essay 186
18 Writing the Travel Essay 193

Part Two: Reaching Readers
19 On a Regular Writing Routine 200
20 Blogging and the Essay 208
21 Red Light, Green Light: Tips for Conquering Writer’s Block 214
22 On Becoming an Excellent Rewriter 219
23 On Publication, Rejection, and Being Stubborn 226
Appendix A: “Of Idle People Who Rove About” by Dinty W. Moore 234
Appendix B: Recommended Readings for Writers 245
Appendix C: Web Sites for Essay Writers 251
Permissions 256
Index 258

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