Tag Archives: nonfiction writing

Excerpt from The Portable MFA: Advice on Essay Writing

Excerpt: The Portable MFA


Here are some excerpts from The Portable MFA, a book I just reviewed.

From Chapter 2: Personal Essay and Memoir, by Peter Bricklebank:

The Personal Presence of the Author

“A characteristic of the personal essay is a voice that seems to speak directly to the reader.  It is an easy voice, a spoken voice, an intimate voice, that of a confidant.  It is the voice of the writer.  An essay gives the impression  of a tete–a-tete between author and reader, the intimacy of the friendly, receptive ear cupped at the articulate mouth of an observant mind.  A writer’s experiences in life, filtered through the limitations and strengths of his character, articulated in his own words in his own singular way create a distinct vision of our shared existence as sentient beings.  Your personal essay provides a window on the world, on our shared human experience.”

“When you, as a writer, express things that readers recognize as somewhat akin to their own experience, you confirm their humanity; where you differ from others, your individuality and the individuality of those reading you are enhanced by being acknowledged, voiced, described, made plain in the light of day.  The essay, then, provides an inner dialogue in an outfacing form.  In seeking to make discoveries about your own life in an essay, you find patterns, meanings, and understanding that extend beyond you.”

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