Pursuing the ‘Craft of the Personal Essay’

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Personal essay writing has always been my saving grace. When the spoken word fails, when I have the urge to get out my feelings, when I want to preserve a memory, I write.

In recent years, I’ve written a lot of personal essays that touch upon universal themes — mother-daughter relationships, loss and healing. I write about these things because I can relate to them, but also because I want others to read them and know that they’re not alone. So many of our life experiences are connected in some way or another, so I try my best to illuminate and make sense of them through writing.

Now I’m hoping to explore these experiences more in a Poynter/News University online group seminar called “The Craft of the Personal Essay.”

I’m in my second week of the four-week course and am learning a lot about different types of essays and about how to shape my ideas. My personal essay idea for the course involves nourishment. Specifically, I want to write about being nurtured (or not) — by my mother and by food. I hope to explore the ways that food has connected me to my Mom, the ways it pulled me apart from her and the ways it has fueled my memories of her.

I haven’t really written publicly about how food relates to my mom, but there are so many connections between the two that I feel the need to explore them more. I hope to publish my final product on this blog and, if it’s good enough, somewhere else. I hope you’ll offer your feedback when I post it.

Feel free to share your ideas for personal essays in the comments section of this post. We can work together to sort through them!