How I wrote an essay and lived to tell the tale…

I’ve never been very good at essays.  I prefer to write stories with characters in them instead of essays where I feel I ought to come to some important conclusion. Even blog posts like this throw me. They don’t come easily. Perhaps it’s because my father, Stewart Alsop, was a columnist who wrote three 1,000 word essays a week for the Herald Tribune Syndicate and later in his career, the back page of Newsweek Magazine. He always came to important conclusions about politics and foreign affairs and government.  I’ve never wanted to compete with him so, from the very beginning, I turned to fiction.

That meant that when a young editor called me up and asked me to submit an essay for an upcoming anthology to be published by Roaring Brook Press, I declined politely. More than once. But she was persistent. So I decided that I needed to stretch myself as a writer. I would give myself ONE DAY to write an essay. In the week leading up to my big day,  I checked out collections of essays: Ian Frazier’s LAMENTATIONS OF THE FATHER,  Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker , BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS.  I read as many as I could. Then my big day came. I checked myself into a private writing room at my favorite library and I started writing.

In one day, I wrote the bare bones of my essay, MY LIFE BEFORE TELEVISION which is included in the just released anthology, BREAKFAST ON MARS AND 37 Other Delectable Essays  edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe. I was thrilled with my achievement, even happier with the excellent editing job and happiest at all the great attention the book is receiving. It’s received Starred Reviews and is a Publishers Weekly Best New Book of the Week   “..a refreshing and useful tool for every middle- and high-school writing teacher to keep handy. Thirty-eight short essays—many humorous, some poignant—come from Sloane Crosley, Sarah Prineas, Ned Vizzini, Scott Westerfeld, Rita Williams-Garcia, and more.”

Hooray for me!  I wrote an essay good enough to be included in an anthology with all these other talented authors.  Teachers, grab a copy from your local bookstore. Maybe your students will learn earlier than I did how much fun essays can be.