Why Trans Flash?

I want trans people to take up space. I want to take up space. When I was ten years old my parents sat me down to tell me my professional basketball dreams were not practical due to my size, and that was before transition. I am 5’5 and scrawny no matter what I eat or...

Against Being Good

I have been trying, for several years, to write about friendship—particularly friendship between adult men and the ways that it’s complicated, for me, as a transgender man who didn’t come out until his early twenties. For the same several years, I have failed miserably at writing this essay. I couldn’t figure out why. It felt...

How Do You Know When It’s Done?

I was about to send off what was to be the final draft of my first book to my agent when I had the heart-stopping thought, what if I rewrote the book again? How much better could it be? The thought made me go so weak in the knees, I had to sit down. My...

The Power of Writing in Threes: The Triptych

The Power of Three Writing a triptych, or an essay consisting of three parts, allows the writer to explore a topic in a layered form. Originally from the Greek word triptychos, meaning three folds, the triptych became popular with visual artists in the Middle Ages. Like the artist presenting three separate panels as a singular...

Three Computational Methods for Writing Nonfiction

Nonfiction, in the tradition of the personal essay, is a wandering expression of ideas, a memory here and a dreamscape there. But how do you begin the composition process? Moreover, how can you organize your ideas and establish a strong workflow? Years ago, I came across a YouTube video in which an instructor (I don’t...

Ghost: The Flash Ending That Appears from Nowhere

For a while, I’ve been contemplating flash essays as fireworks. It isn’t difficult to imagine the shortest of micros, say 100 words or less, as a salute: a bang so loud and a flare so quick, it bumps in your chest, a physical response to the discomfort of it. I can see the more traditional...

Writer and Editor as Creative Collaborators

My years in corporate communications taught me how to churn out copy that met deadlines and management messaging strategies. I built a career but lost my drive as a creative writer. Criticism came fast post-publication, but collaboration during the drafting process was absent. I was a solo operator and just kept stringing words together on...

On the Aside Looking In

I’m not good at keeping secrets, but I love collecting them. Of course, I’m not saying that I can’t keep my friends’ secrets (though maybe I’m writing that on the off chance one reads this). The secrets I can’t keep are my own (when I was nearly 16, I came out to my parents one...

Revising with Lenses

An axiom from the world of sales: If you give someone two choices, they’ll probably pick one. If you give them three choices, they’ll say, “I have to think about it.” If you give them four choices, they’ll say, “Forget it, I’m fine with what I have.” Our point: Considering too much at once can...

Craft and Creative Process: Loosen Science Writing from Technical Grooves

A key element of the scientific process is play. This is often overlooked. When I say play, I mean the kind of game that might end with everyone crying. The suspense, risks, hope, joy, and dead ends of making hypotheses, forging wilderness, and running experiments are messy. Wonder fuels inquiry and, often, human connection sustains...

‘Caught up in the Jaws’: Writing for Theme

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about writing personal essays came from one of my MFA teachers, Susan Cheever, at Bennington College. “Write for theme,” she told us in workshop. “Not plot, theme.” Her lesson changed my life. Without a universal theme, personal essayists can end up writing anecdotes or catalogues...

Close Encounters of the Nonfiction Kind

In 1972, astronomer J. Allen Hynek published The UFO Experience, which included a classification system to describe three levels of “close encounters.” Though I am a skeptic regarding UFO sightings, Hynek’s scale intrigues me for what it suggests about how nonfiction writers might recognize promising subjects when they appear and encourage encounters of the deepest...

Getting Lost—and Found—in Personal Narrative

Getting lost is scary. As toddlers, my sister and I got separated from our parents in a giant store. I can still feel the verge-of-tears panic, the tightening of the throat. What if Mom and Dad abandoned us? What if strangers kidnapped us? That’s what’s frightening about getting lost, isn’t it? To be torn from...

Emotional Pacing: Lessons in Writing a Trauma Memoir

Writing a memoir about childhood familial trauma has taken me into fraught storytelling territory. The narrative centers on growing up in the shadow of my maternal aunt’s murder that took place when my mother was pregnant with me. She kept her sister’s murder a closely guarded secret throughout my childhood. This aunt was my mother’s...

Consider the Platypus: Four Forms—Maybe—of the Lyric Essay

What is a lyric essay? Lyric comes from the late sixteenth century: from French lyrique or Latin lyricus, from Greek lurikos, from lura ‘lyre.’ To the ear, “lyre” and “liar” sound the same, which I resist because I do not condone lying in essays, lyric or otherwise. But mythology tells us that the origins of...