Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about reading, so this month’s Parents Express article on The Benefits of Beginning to Read at a Young Age was doubly fun for me.
We still enjoy books. Sometimes we read them even though my kids are long past the picture book age. One that is always good for a laugh is Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Be sure to check out Nancy Viau’s new books as well.
By Lisa B. Samalonis on May 1, 2013
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 11, 2013
In the age of oversharing on twitter, Facebook, and blogs, the art of the personal essay and options for publishing have shrunk. Recently even Smithsonian magazine gave up its Last Page essay section. For those who write personal essays it is often a labor of love or an exercise for a writing class. Publishing venues are few and the waiting list is long. Here, my former student, Dave Zangaro, has a short essay–which he wrote in my class several years ago–published in the Christian Science Monitor.
Kudos to Dave!
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 11, 2013
Holidays are the perfect time to pitch essays. Remember, you have to pitch early — a month or so — to make it into a website or newspaper and several months to make the print or monthly magazine deadline. In this essay, which originally ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I reflect on the meaning of one special paper heart I received in high school. From a boyfriend? No, from a mentor. I believe this was appealing to the editor because it was somewhat different. Homemade children’s valentines are the subject a Parents Express essay I got published another year.
But what if the idea for an essay strikes during –or after– the holiday?
No worries. A good essay idea is never wasted. Write it up and save it in a folder in your computer labeled for a month when it would be best to send the essay next year. These essays are evergreen and oh so appealing.
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 8, 2013
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 7, 2013
This week we continue with writing the commentary. So the question is: What exactly are you trying to say in your essay or opinion piece and how effectively do you say it?
For opinions, is your viewpoint tied to a news peg? Do you substantiate your point with facts or is it just a running rant? Do you briefly acknowledge the other side of the argument? Do you offer solutions?
For your essay, have you delved deeper to get below the superficial surface of the piece? Can you answer the question: My essay is about _____, but it is really about ____? What is your aha moment?
I have loaded another essay in the commentary folder on blackboard. This one is about one woman’s experience running a 5K race sans clothing at a naturalist’s camp. The article was published in Women’s Health magazine. Will it interest the publication’s readers? See if you can answer the question: the piece is about ____, but it is really about ______.
Notice the pacing of the essay. Look at the descriptors and word choice. Notice how she uses the “fish out of water” device to make the piece work. As far as truth goes her premise is simple, but structuring a humorous piece that works is not.
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 6, 2013
“No thinking. You write your first draft with your heart. You re-write with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.”
–Finding Forrester, 2000
Rewatching Finding Forrester. Remembering why I liked it.
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 5, 2013
In the digital age–with blogging and tweeting and Facebook– oversharing runs rampant. I used to write a fair share of essays including those published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and some consumer magazines. It was for me a dance between personal details and a universal message that people could connect to. This is different from sharing –or oversharing — all the lurid details of life.
As more and more people moved to reading online and my favorite sections of the newspaper dwindled and other parts of my life overflowed, I have backed away from the essay. Also, I don’t like to publish work about my children as much out of respect for their privacy in the Internet age. Recently though I took some time and read through some of my older stuff and realized how much I miss the essay. I started reworking a few pieces. In today’s Huffington Post, my essay on divorcing my wedding dress is published.
The essay about my dress is written to connect with other divorced women and asks at the end what they did with their dresses. In earlier drafts many more words centered around me and my angst etc. They had to go in order for the essay to work. If I follow (and I did) Nancy Kelton’s instructive personal essay sentence which she writes about in her book Writing from Personal Experience it would go:
My essay is about X (getting rid of my wedding dress), but it is really about Y (learning to let go of the past truly to begin again.) I took Nancy’s one day course in NYC quite a few years ago and I still find the information I learned useful.
The comments to the essay (a section I usually despise) are really great, with women of all ages sharing their stories. I say this is good karma on many fronts.
By Lisa B. Samalonis on April 4, 2013