Assay@NFN15: “Writers on Essays that Took Forever to Get Right”

The NonfictioNow2015 conference was a while ago, but there were many great sessions on creative nonfiction. Here are my comments on one of the many interesting sessions I attended.

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

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 Aviyah Kushner, Mary Margaret Alvarado and Kerry Reilly, read and discussed essays that took years to finish, and examined the process by which a story can start quickly but take time, reflection and editing to get just right. There was discussion about how latter events can send you back to an older, unfinished essay; these events can be portals to a fresh look at a piece. Alvarado advised that as writers, we think about the means, not the ends, and be faithful to the means.

Mary Margaret Alvarado set the tone with her opening comment that these essays can “come in a rush…but sometimes they take years.” She said that she did not write one essay, as much as she pieced it from letters, using sentences as the unit of composition, taking the piece from found poem, to a found essay. She read from her essay, “Dear Joshua”, based on…

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