Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Essay suggestions?

Exciting and random news. I teach a freelance writing course at an Adult Ed center in Boston. Brian and I had been tag-team teaching it, but then Brian got too busy and had to stop. Yesterday the director asked Brian to teach an essay writing class, which is random since B doesn't write essays. B told the guy to contact me, which he did, and now I'll be teaching that class! I'm very excited. And I need your help. I want to use published essays in class. Any suggestions? I'm looking for stuff that's very good, but not too long or difficult. I'm thinking along the lines of David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Pam Houston. Best Blogger Tips


bostonerin said...

oooh, FUN! Some that I like:

Joan Didion, "On Keeping a Notebook"
Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue"
Anything by Sedaris ("Go Carolina" is one of my favorites)
Maya Angelou, "What's Your Name, Girl"
George Orwell "On Shooting An Elephant" (an oldie but goodie)
And check out "Writing is Easy!" by Steve Martin (his collection, PURE DRIVEL, is amazing)

And, if you want, I can let you borrow some of the sample books that publishers send me. I just got "50 Great Essays" last week!

FatCharlatan said...

I agree with BostonErin's picks. Here are some others:

This essay by JoAnn Beard changed my life when I read it back in the mid-90's (or whenever it came out). It's the essay that made me want to write personal essays. Here's a link to it--it's called The Fourth State of Matter.

If you're looking for a "text," consider copying the first portion of Vivan Gornick's The Situation and the Story.

Check out some anthologies by these writers: Susan Orlean (The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup--there are some great, short profiles in that) and Marjorie William's The Woman at the Washington Zoo. I like your suggestion of Vowell--I read The Partly Cloudy Patriot--some great choices in that. Also, if you want a more classical piece, pick a selection (or two) from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.

If you need other ideas, check The Best American Essays anthologies, which are available in libraries, and I have several copies I could lend you.

If I think of more, I'll post 'em!

Kerry said...

I have no suggestions, but yay!

TI said...

Is the whole class on personal essays or essays of all kinds? How exciting! I'm envious. I only teach boring stuff and would relish an opportunity to teach more fun stuff. I second FC's recommendation of Part 1 of Vivian Gornick's The Situation and the Story as a text. The essay "memory and Imagination" in Patricia Hampl's collection I Could Tell Stories is also really good. I'm completely charmed by Andre Aciman's essays right now. His collection _False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory_ is amazing. I'm not sure if they're more elaborate than what you are after but have a look. For social commentary, Katha Pollit has a great collection of short essays called Subject to Debate, which I believe is the name of her column in the Nation. Congrats!

Repeater said...

Wow, well everyone has covered the basics. I definitely think you absolutely must include Joan Didion. Also check out a book called "the Art Spirit" by Robert Henri. It's about painting, but there are just some brilliant brilliant passages. Looks like you have a good list to pick from.

Susan said...

I took that class - it was great fun! But we had to buy an expensive book with all the texts, which was a bummer (not recommended for adult ed). If you're looking for essays written by "real people," then check out Newsweek's "My Turn" section.

Bug said...

Thanks everyone! The class is just on personal essays... and Susan, I can't believe they let that happen! I would never pick a book that cost more than $20 for an adult ed class.