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The underlying structure, Hopson says, is what separates the two.
It’s not normally light reading, but it pulls the reader along with a growing understanding of Quammen’s predicament.
It’s sometimes shocking to suddenly have the freedom to insert yourself into an essay, particularly when you’re used to keeping yourself out of the story in traditional news pieces.
Or at least someone who took things like rhetoric and comp. One of my favorite descriptions of the form comes from Janet Hopson, a co-founder of and the inaugural columnist of the magazine’s Natural Acts column.
In some ways, she says, the lines are blurry between essays and feature stories. Some features include the writer’s own experience, use lyrical language, or support an argument; an essay can brim with facts, quote other people, and the first-person writer can vanish behind a screen of words.
Without change, she says, an essay is just something that happened, a topic instead of a story.
Change can come through earth-shattering revelation—or, as Boggs shows, through quiet, even tentative steps.
For those already writing about science, an essay can be a way of stepping into an unfamiliar field, whether it’s fluid dynamics or immunology, and exploring the most personally compelling facets.
Essays are, in fact, what got Richard Panek, a journalist and fiction writer, into writing about science.
“I like to have a personal relationship with my subject,” he says. who’s behind what I write, to the extent one can be clear about who one is.” No matter how much a writer reveals himself, he has to find a way to make his experience resonate with others.
contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis, who edits essays for the biweekly, looks for writers who can get journalistic distance on themselves.