Craft Essay Archive

The Comfort of Writing Guides: On Benjamin Percy’s “Thrill Me”

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About a year ago, I heard Benjamin Percy give a craft lecture in Seattle. The talk, “Making the Extraordinary Ordinary,” concerned blending literary and genre fiction.

On Intimacy: Elena Ferrante & Stacey D’Erasmo

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It seems as though people do not want to believe that fiction can be intimate—that is: detailed, personal, private, sacred, something with which readers feel closely acquainted or familiar. It is especially surprising if it is also broad, and that one book can accomplish both apparently astounds reviewers.

On Sentimentality: Zoe Heller, Leslie Jamison, Nate Pritts, & Mary Ruefle

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When we talk about sentimentality in literature, we talk about the “contemporary, pejorative sense of the word,” Zoe Heller writes for the New York Times. A word defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of being sentimental especially to excess or in affectation.” A word with synonyms such as

Writing Travel: A Process of Unmooring

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Sara Majka‘s debut story collection, Cities I’ve Never Lived In, begins with movement: “Maybe ten or eleven years ago, when I was in the middle of a divorce from a man I still loved, I took the train into the city. We were both moving often during this time,

Weathering/Writing the Storms

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In an episode of Master of None, Dev and Arnold walk home from a mostly uneventful night out at a bar. One remarks how cold it is. The other says it’s supposed to be nicer the next day. Dev acknowledges how cliché and potentially banal the topic at hand

How to Write Violence

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How to talk about violence in literature, when the term violence is so broad? “Violence” is defined as “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something,” but it’s also used to depict the “strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force.” How to

Morphology of the Essay: Ander Monson, Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Leslie Jamison, & Maggie Nelson

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According to Wikipedia, a keystone is “used figuratively to refer to a central element of a larger structure […] that locks the other elements in place and allows the whole to be self-supporting.” With a stone archway, the form is inherent, or predetermined. First, there is the abutment, then

Begin Again: On Endings in Nonfiction

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Talking, or writing, about endings is hard—whether it’s the end of a marriage, the end of a life, or the end of a book (lest one spoil the conclusion). Life rarely offers sudden and definitive endings or epiphanic conclusions. Rather, events leading up to the end seem to be

Why Bother with Craft?

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“Craft” was a dirty word at art school, a subtle derogative. The college dropped “and Craft” from their name so recently that the signs on the highway still held those words. Once, in a class critique, a peer called a hand-painted map used to make a stop motion short

Language Could Kill You: Adichie, Code-Switching & the Biafran War

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Language plays a crucial role throughout Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels, but nowhere is it more decisive than in the author’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. Written against the backdrop of the Biafran War, two wealthy sisters return from England to a nation on the cusp of revolution