A lot of us write essays without knowing it. This online article is an essay. A newspaper column is an essay. A blog post is, essentially, an essay. The forms morph but the style — an ordinary yet extraordinary personal examination of an everyday topic — remains.
Charity Singleton Craig wasn’t sure she belonged in the essayists club, alongside names like E.B. White, Scott Russell Sanders, and Wendell Berry. But she did see herself in this admonition from Isabel Allende: “write what should not be forgotten.” Charity’s newest book, The Art of the Essay, invites us to do just that. It’s less how-to and more hey-join-me.
We’ll be holding a three-week book club next month.
October 16: Truth (introduction and chapters 1-4)
October 23: Poetry (chapters 5-9)
October 30: True (chapters 10-12 and epilogue)
Before getting ready to launch the book club, I called Charity. One question I asked was, “What is your hope for the book?”
She answered, “A lot of creative nonfiction writers don’t understand that’s what they are — an essayist. They think they want to write a memoir, but what they really want to write is an essay. Maybe it will give them some permission or a way forward to try. That’s the big thing I want people to get out of this book: Just try!”
I used to think I wanted to write memoir, until my life got a lot more complicated. It got so complicated that for a while I even gave up on essays, which had been a big part of my professional life for eight years, as a magazine columnist. But Charity’s book has me wanting to try again. It’s that kind of book.
So whatever kind of writer you are, in addition to discussing chapters each week, we’ll offer you the opportunity to write an essay. If you write along, please include a link in the comments so our book club community can enjoy.
To keep us in a neat lane, keep your essay between 500-1,000 words. If your first draft is too short, where do you need to dive deeper? If it’s too long, have you been distracted by an unnecessary tangent?
See ya next month!
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