Personal Essay

Write a personal essay about an early, powerful memory of an experience with a non-human animal.

Cultivate a sense of narrative structure using creative non-fiction prose, leveraging both the immediacy of direct experience and the resonance of reflection and synthesis to develop a compelling integration of both “horizontal” and “vertical” narratives.


Content Requirements:
Draw from the two in-class exercises and develop further the ideas you started working with. Reflect on what is the central question you want to explore in the essay.

Be sure to create a horizontal narrative and a vertical narrative. Remember:

  • The horizontal narrative resembles the traditional plot line in fiction: it reveals your story through action and external events.
  • Vertical narrative emerges from your internal inquiry. It mines the horizontal narrative for emotions, reflections, and insights.

You can use these prompts to get at the vertical narrative:

  • When I think of this now, I realize…
  • When I think of this now, I wonder…
  • When I think of this now, I wish…
  • When I think of this now, I imagine…
  • What I really want to say is…

Use various techniques we’ve worked with so far: concrete description, questioning, figurative language (metaphor and simile), form, etc. Challenge yourself to not use abstracts!

You may find it tricky to integrate these two present-tense narratives—you can convert the “voice of innocence” into past tense, or come up with another solution.

Formatting Requirements:

  • Length: 3-page maximum
  • 12-point font, double-spaced.
  • Number your pages.
  • Include your name, group (“Chipmunk” or “Swallow”), title, and the date.
  • This work will eventually become a part of your Animal Book.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Due Monday of Week 6 by 4pm.
  • Share with new peer critique groups via Moodle forum.
  • Bring 1 hardcopy of your own work to class on Tuesday.
  • Bring hardcopies of each small peer critique group member’s work to class on Tuesday, with comments.

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