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An editor proposed a book about the history of the telescope; when he balked, she suggested he imagine the project as a long essay. I could focus where it was interesting to me,” he says.
What’s also evident in this essay is the writer’s subtle transformation.
Boggs contemplates some counterpoints—from a female gorilla on birth control pills to Virginia Woolf, who wrote on one occasion that the thrill of writing well surpassed her longtime desire for children—near the essay’s end.
Then in the final graphs, Boggs notes that the cicadas have stopped singing.
“The silence is startling at first—I step outside each morning expecting to hear that seashell sound—but it’s also a relief. Transformation is critical to the success of a personal essay, says Evelyn Strauss, a writer and editor who teaches the UCSC essay course in alternating years.
But sometimes, when I’m trying to start out an essay, I’m not sure yet where the action is.
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Panek, co-author of “because the moment that you start to put something down on paper, the reader is already interested in what came before.” The beginning of Belle Boggs’ lovely essay “The Art of Waiting” does just that.
The underlying structure, Hopson says, is what separates the two.
In an essay, the writer directs the movement from idea to idea; a feature’s structure comes from its subject.
“No matter how long you’ve been doing it, it’s easy to get lost in your own experience,” she says.
She points to a successful essay about two women getting married in rural Washington.