“The process of writing prose can intimidate even the most seasoned poets,” writes Khadijah Queen in the latest installment of Craft Capsules. “Using the zuihitsu form provided just the open space I needed.” In the essay, Queen argues that having a form as flexible as the zuihitsu, a Japanese form of hybrid poem-essay invented by Sei Shōnagon in the eleventh century, allows for lyricism to be maintained across a longer prose piece, in which patterns of image and sound can keep a narrative going. Write an essay inspired by the zuihitsu form, beginning with a simple observation and building that image with textures of rich poetic fragments.
“Commit to completing a scene each time you write” —Randa Jarrar, author of Love Is an Ex-Country
In an excerpt published on Literary Hub of a narrated essay by Tristan McConnell for the Emergence Magazine podcast, he writes about visiting the shrinking mountain forests surrounding Mount Kenya with Joseph Mbaya, who along with other foragers seeks to restore the ancient medicinal knowledge behind various species of plants and roots. Among “cedar and yellowwood, rosewood and water-berry,” Myaba “finds treatments for arthritis, prostate cancer, toothaches, ear infections, upset stomach, indigestion, and even pungent wind,” writes McConnell. Write an essay about a time you communed with nature and found knowledge in that encounter. Did the experience affect how you view your relationship with nature?
Inside the Actors Studio, hosted for twenty-two seasons by the late James Lipton, began as a craft seminar for students of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York. Now a well-known network television show, famous actors, writers, and directors are interviewed, and a questionnaire is submitted to the guest. This list of ten questions, meant to reveal deep truths about one’s psychology, includes: “What is your favorite curse word?” “What sound or noise do you hate?” and “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” Write an essay in which you explore one or more of these queries. Are there any misconceptions about yourself revealed in the process?
“The day that changed my life was like every other day before it, except that it changed my life.” Mateo Askaripour’s debut novel, Black Buck, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in January, sets up anticipation in the first chapter by starting on the day when everything changed for the protagonist, Darren. Ordinary activities and smells are described, inviting the reader in while building suspense for the change to come. “The house smelled as it always did at 7 a.m.—like coffee. It made me want to puke.” Write an essay that walks the reader through a regular day in your life when you felt the circumstances of it change, whether big or small.
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