Feature Writing, Reading

The best essays of 2019… so far!

Old typewriter on wooden desk with caption 'The best essays of 2019 so far' by Ruth Dawkins

According to my blog stats, a post I wrote back in 2017 about 20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays has proved to be enduringly popular. I suspect it’s mainly other writers who seek it out, looking for publications that might be a good fit to submit their own personal essays to. But perhaps there are also a few people out there – like me – who just really enjoy reading good quality essays and feature articles online.

One problem I’ve found over the years is that I tend to lose track of those favourite reads. I save the link on Facebook, or favourite it on Twitter… but then never manage to go back and read it a second time. Sometimes I forget to save it at all, which can be infuriating if I’m trying to find it again later! I’ll remember a great turn of phrase, or a theme that resonated, but no combination of Google search terms will bring the piece back to me. Continue reading “The best essays of 2019… so far!”

Feature Writing

20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays

Ruth Dawkins 20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays

There has been a lot of discussion in writing circles recently about the fate of the personal essay. I say recently, but in fact this is a debate that has been going on for a long time. Virgina Woolf, always ahead of her time, was grumbling about personal essays as long ago as 1905.

Anyway, back in May, Jia Tolentino wrote a piece in the New Yorker arguing that The Personal-Essay Boom is Over (and then, ironically enough, sold a collection of her personal essays to Random House). It spawned many thoughtful and interesting responses, including this feminist defence of the form by New School Professor Susan Shapiro, this wonderful piece about parenting essays by Lauren Apfel at Motherwell, and this piece by Kath Kenny in The Conversation.

If you’ve grown up online, as I have, you will likely have read hundreds, if not thousands of personal essays. It’s true that many of them – the poorly written, exploitative clickbait articles that were the focus of Laura Bennet’s excellent Slate piece back in 2015 – should never have been published.

But it’s also true that a well written personal essay can be a truly beautiful thing. I have a folder on my desktop of saved pieces that I return to again and again: astonishing, illuminating essays about what it means to find your home, to be a mother, to love and laugh and live. Continue reading “20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays”