In 2009, I received my master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction from West Virginia University. Through three years of workshops, I learned a lot about structure, audience, and craft. Despite these lessons, for me, one of the hardest parts of writing an essay has always been figuring out a topic. Or, to be honest, not giving up on the topic in the first three paragraphs.
A turning point in my schooling was a visit from the illustrious Brenda Miller, coauthor of http://gaynorlegal.com/uninsured-medical-expenses/ Tell It Slant and author of buy neurontin 800mg no prescription Season of the Body, among other masterpieces. Reading these two very different books and working with her in a small group changed my approach to essay writing. Continue reading “Writing an Essay”
“Nothing important is completely explicable.”
– Madeleine L’Engle
Years ago, I took a nonfiction workshop where I read Madeleine L’Engle’s book Two-Part Invention: The Story of Marriage. Until that point, I had only read her fiction and a little of her poetry. Much of her nonfiction is about her religious conversion in adulthood, but Two-Part Invention is about love and hate and growing old. The title refers both to Bach’s “Two-Part Inventions” and L’Engle’s relationship with her husband, Hugh. A two-part invention is an exercise piece for piano consisting of two imitative lines, one for each hand, that toss musical motives back and forth, creating conversation. Because there are no chords, the harmony of the piece comes when the lines intersect. Such music surely frustrates the young pianist, but helps her grow in her playing.
The first few chapters of the book relate the separate childhoods of Madeleine and Hugh and how they met. Then Hugh proposes. Instead of jumping chronologically into marriage, L’Engle wrote an Interlude, using the house she and Hugh lived in, Crosswicks—meaning “where the two roads meet”—as a symbol of her marriage. Crosswicks is an old farmhouse with drafty windows and creaking stairs; it is home in every sense of the word, but constantly needs renovation. Continue reading “Learning Life Lessons Through L’Engle’s Structure”