Happy Birthday, Lesley!

We are a family here at Inkblot, and when someone has a birthday, we celebrate! To publishing folk (at least our kind of publishing folk), celebrating means writing bad poetry, so here you go, Lesley! Happy Birthday!

 

Young Lesley was an eager lass;

She read and wrote and played.

She must have been top of her class

While all best plans she laid.

***

We’ll never know what happened next;

The silence there is thick.

Perhaps at life she was perplexed,

And thus she played a trick?

***

For some odd reason she chose to work

With Rachel (Weird, I know!).

But we’ll forgive our lass her quirk

‘Cause when editing, she glows.

 

 

Starting an Essay

Sorry for the radio silence, friends! I just got back from my big Patagonian adventure.

Los Torres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, by Rachel Rosolina

It was more incredible than I could have dreamed.

One goal of this trip was to write about it once I got home. Here’s a rough look at my process. A lot of it happens simultaneously or gets cycled back to.

Make Connections

Because I’m antsy, I even started a Google Doc of ideas before leaving. It is a holding place for various ideas that have connected with this trip in my head. On the list of topics:

  • Forest bathing (walking through the woods to relieve anxiety)
  • Travel anxiety
  • Connections with nature
  • Snippets from the trip (using my journal as a huge reference point)

Brainstorm

Once I have a rough set of connections, I write about each of them and see where they lead me. I write a lot and delete a lot. Kill your darlings, as they say. At this stage, I can generally start to see what the main point of the essay is—and, honestly, it’s not always what I thought it would be. Finding that core helps everything else fall into place.

Pick a Structure

Sometimes the structure is obvious for a piece. Most of the time it’s not. I often begin with my standard structure of a braided narrative using various strands from my connections list. It usually works best when scholarly or scientific knowledge is set next to more narrative text.

Another structure I’m considering is that of Bruce Chatwin’s book In Patagonia. He has short bursts of narrative that seem completely separate from one another. These paragraphs reflect the sparseness of the scrub brush land, but still give you a wider picture of the region and the author.

Play with Sections

Using my sections, I arrange and rearrange within my structure (or choose a different structure altogether). Seeing how sections interact with one another is one of the magical parts of essay writing. Sometimes the space between two sections says exactly what you intended but couldn’t put into words.

EcoCamp with Nieto in the background by Rachel Rosolina

I hope this overview helps you as you play with narrative in essay form!