Writing the Personal Essay
Each week will begin with my introduction of a topic for that week’s memoir assignment. Topics will include Food, Place, Love, and Loss. I will email you examples from writers I admire such as Jonathan Lethem, JoAnn Beard, Cheryl Strayed, and Tony Early and discuss how they have accomplished writing these strong essays. How did they introduce their idea? How did they develop it? How did they use characters, dialogue, setting, metaphor and other elements of the craft to achieve their emotional impact? You will write an essay on that topic and share it with the class. Their comments–along with mine–will provide a forum for discussion. I will also have a one on one email conversation with you in which I will offer suggestions for revision. These short exercises will be the building blocks for your final personal essay. You might expand one of the shorter pieces, or combine several of them, or use them as a springboard to a new topic. Although you don’t need to have workshop experience for this class, you must feel comfortable with literary discussion at the intermediate level.
Ann Hood - I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I remember. My favorite books when I was a kid were Little Women and Nancy Drew. Later, I loved Marjorie Morningstar, Les Miserables and Doctor Zhivago, obviously choosing books by size! A Rhode Island native, I was born in West Warwick and spent high school working as a Marsha Jordan Girl, modeling for the Jordan Marsh department store at the Warwick Mall. I majored in English at the University of Rhode Island, and that's where I fell in love with Shakespeare, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I was in seventh grade, I read a book called How To Become An Airline Stewardess that fueled my desire to see the world. And that's just what I did when I graduated from URI--I went to work for TWA as a flight attendant. Back then, I thought you needed adventures in order to be a writer. Of course, I know now that all you need, as Eudora Welty said, is to sit on your own front porch. But I did see a lot of the world with TWA, and I moved from Boston to St. Louis and finally to NYC, a place I'd dreamed of living ever since I watched Doris Day movies as a little girl. I wrote my first novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, on international flights and on the Train to the Plane, which was the subway out to JFK. It was published in 1987. Since then, I've published in The New York Times, The Paris Review, O, Bon Appetit, Tin House, The Atlantic Monthly, Real Simple, and other wonderful places; and I've won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award.