Craft Essays

Randon Billings Noble, “Re(using) Found Forms: The Hermit Crab Essay,” Proximity

Brenda Miller, “The Shared Space Between Reader and Writer: A Case Study,” Brevity

excerpt: “When I teach the hermit crab essay class, we begin by brainstorming the many different forms that exist for us to plunder for our own purposes. Once we have such a list scribbled on the board, I ask the students to choose one form at random and see what kind of content that form suggests. This is the essential move: allowing form to dictate content. By doing so, we get out of our own way; we bypass what our intellectual minds have already determined as ‘our story’ and instead become open and available to unexpected images, themes and memories. Also, following the dictates of form gives us creative nonfiction writers a chance to practice using our imaginations, filling in details, and playing with the content to see what kind of effects we can create.”

Lia Purpura, “On Miniatures,” Brevity

When this essay was included in the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, Purpura added an exercise where she suggests considering every essay as a letter (even if it is to yourself). “Letters, of course, are miniature forms of being, a whole sense of a person compressed.” 

Optional further reading

Vivian Wagner, “Essays in Strange Forms and Peculiar Places” [review of the anthology The Shell Game], The Millions