Personal Essay Exercise
• my record/CD collection
Students can approach their chosen topic in any way and from any angle they like, but I encourage them to read the personal essays in their course reader – for instance, Anne Fadiman’s essay ‘Coffee’ from her collection At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays (2007) – and the introduction to Phillip Lopate’s brilliant, wide-ranging anthology The Art of the Personal Essay (1994). My own favourite personal essays blend snippets of life-story with unfamiliar factual information and some general reflections. They are written so that during the essay the mood moves through subtle (perhaps not instantly recognised) shifts in feeling. That’s of course a lot to expect from a 600-word piece! But what the students produce in this miniature form, they sometimes go on to develop into something weird and wonderful.
Extract from The Exercise Book, available in all good book stores or online from VUP.
Harry Ricketts is the author of many books including Just Then, which will be launched during Writers & Readers Week in Wellington on March 10th.