Ascension Garden

Memorable writing that sparks imagination. Lean in. Hear the writer’s voice on the page. Ascension Garden By Stacy Murison The first time, you drive by yourself. You have some idea you are going there, but are still surprised that you know the way, without her, through the turning and turning driveways. Left, left, left, left. Park near the rusted dripping spigot. The wind blows, unseasonably warm for November. You bring the candy bar, her favorite, the one from the specialty chocolate shop, the one with the dark chocolate and light green ribbon of mint. You try to eat yours, but instead, stare at hers, unopened, where you imagine the headstone will go and sob without sound while the wind French-braids your hair just as she would have, and that’s how you know she is here. She is still pushing cicada shells off white birch trunks with her toes, dancing around…

Just Write

How to Write a Personal Essay

We aren’t born knowing how to write personal essays. So, how does one learn to write personal essays? The following is inspired from “A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays,” by Robert Lee Brewer, March/April 2021 Writer’s Digest. Read personal essays! Then write. You will discover your style as you write. ~ Start with action. Save backstory for later in the essay. The beginning should have a compelling scene that hooks readers and makes them want to continue reading. The following is an example of “start with action.” The hook compelled me to read the entire essay. “When he walked into a San Francisco barbershop after the war, he was told by the owner, ‘We don’t serve Japs here.’ The owner of the barbershop obviously didn’t know who the one-armed Japanese-American was – his name was Daniel Inouye. And, according to one website that honors heroes, he was one tough…

Guest Bloggers

Rubbing Aladdin’s Lamp

“The past,” Phillip Lopate says, “is an Aladdin’s lamp we never tire of rubbing.” Guest Blogger Norma Watkins studied with Phillip Lopate. The following is what she gleaned working with the master of the personal essay. The hallmark of personal essay and memoir is its intimacy. [Links below on memoir writing.] In a personal essay, the writer seems to be speaking directly into the reader’s ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom: thoughts, memories, desires, complaints, whimsies. The core of this kind of writing is the understanding that there is a certain unity to human experience. As Montaigne put it, “Every man has within himself the entire human condition.” This kind of informal writing, whether a short piece or a book of memoir, is characterized by: self-revelation individual tastes and experiences a confidential manner humor a graceful style rambling structure unconventionality novelty of theme freshness of form freedom from stiffness…

Just Write

Personal Essay is Memoir in Short Form

If you have written your memoir, or are in the process, and it’s not shaping into what you envisioned, you could transform it into a personal essay. It might be easier, at some point, to concentrate on writing a personal essay, rather than a book-length manuscript. There are many posts on The Write Spot Blog about how to write personal essays. (Please scroll down for the how-to posts). You may be writing vignettes to satisfy your desire to write family stories. You can publish these with the help of many do-it-yourself publishing companies. If you want your personal essays to be published for public consumption, there are many opportunities for submission: Big Brick Review, Chicken Soup for The Soul, The Christian Science Monitor,  Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction and so many more places. Check the back pages of Writer’s Digest magazine. You can submit your writing to be included in…

Places to submit

Hippocampus Magazine wants your story about All Kinds of Weather

Hippocampus Magazine enthusiastically accepts unsolicited submissions in the following categories: memoir excerpt – a self-contained portion (chapter or selection) of a larger, book-length work personal essay – a short narrative reflecting on a particular life experience or observation flash creative nonfiction or a work of creative nonfiction in an experimental format Here is an article that discusses the difference between memoir and essay. And here is another. 2014 Theme: Weather & Acts of Nature From storms and sprinkles to earthquakes and extreme heat, Mother Nature can pack a punch or paint a pretty picture. Weather can be wacky and wild. And weather can be calm. Weather often plays a character in our everyday—and not so everyday—lives. We’re seeking tales in which the weather or even a natural disaster played a significant or supporting role. To be clear, we’re not specifically looking for stories just about bad weather or destruction; instead,…


Essence of you. Prompt #45

Step 1. Make a list of significant events that have happened in your life. Start with the year you were born . You can list important dates such as the year you graduated, got married, started jobs, vacations. Also, list emotional highs and lows:  betrayals, losses, inspirations, revelations, epiphanies. Step 2. Choose specific years from this list and research historical events that happened during those years. Step 3.  From your lists: Choose an event that you think people would want to know more about.  Or, choose events that capture the essence of you. Step 4: Write about the event. Include specific details and use anecdotes.* Tie in your personal events with historical events. For example:  My junior high friends and I swiveled on cherry-red stools at Woolworth’s in 1962 in San Francisco, not realizing that folks with certain colored skin were not allowed the same privileges in other parts of the…

Just Write

Are there rules for essay writing?

Pat Olsen has written an excellent article about writing personal essay in the December 2013 issue of The Writer magazine. Highlights: “. . . when I am so obsessed about an idea that I can’t wait to put pen to paper, the essay almost writes itself. That’s not so say I don’t struggle over every word, or that I’m done after the first draft . . . Some of the best advice I’ve received is that it’s not only what you choose to include in an essay that’s important, but it’s also what you choose to omit.”  She gives an example and then goes on to ask: “Are there actual rules for essay writing? If so, not all writers agree on them.” After consulting essayists, here’s what she discovered:  Kate Walter:  “‘An essay should have a universal theme . . . No matter how unusual a story may seem,’ she…


What happened, from your point of view. . . Prompt #36

Today’s writing prompt was inspired from the January 2003 issue of The Writer magazine, ”On Writing Personal Essays,” by Barbra Abercrombie. Make a list of issues and experiences, important and trivial in your life right now. What frustrated you in the past month? What made you laugh or cry? What made you lose your temper? What was the worst thing that happened? The best? The most disturbing and weird? Write:  Choose one thing from your list and write about it. Write whatever comes to mind. Write what you would really like to say to the other people involved. Write what happened from your point of view.

Just Write

Three Top Pointers About Writing Personal Essays by Kelly Caldwell

From December 2013 issue of The Writer magazine. “In the Classroom” with Kelly Caldwell. 1. Don’t worry about What is My Larger Subject? in your first draft. Just get out of your own way, write the story and let the universal themes of the essay reveal themselves. 2. When you’ve got that first draft, ask yourself, “So what?” and write down the answer. 3. When you reach a point in the essay where you want to make things up because they would be more interesting or more satisfying or just prettier, don’t. This is creative NONfiction, after all, and yes, that matters. Also, those are usually places where you need to dig deeper, because that’s where the richer, more meaningful material usually lies.