Brief essays by annie dillard


The Sydney Morning Herald

Later that year, seven climbers got stuck in a storm at 26, feet. Only two made it home, and they paid for their lives in fingers and toes, lost to frostbite.

How to Find Your Voice: Steal It From Annie Dillard

One climber was found a year later by the Japanese team leaning against a rock wall. She was frozen stiff. I know it. Switch to Second-Person Point-of-View. After building her metaphor, she throws us, the readers, right in the middle:. This is your life. You are a Seminole alligator wrestler. See how she switches to second person? This is where the point she is making and her metaphor collide. Your dream wants to kill you. You fall 3, feet to your death. One hundred thousand pounds of snow and ice collapses on you.

You get stuck in the open in much-too-cold weather, and they find you years later, still standing but frozen stiff.

12 keys to stronger writing from Annie Dillard via Alexander Chee | Cynthia Newberry Martin

Practice writing like Annie Dillard for fifteen minutes. First, make a point. Writing is hard , for example. Next, build a metaphor. What else is hard?

Running marathons? Last, switch to second-person point-of-view. Your feet start to bleed. You run on them anyway. You learn to run barefoot.


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The sun paints your skin brown. You run through the snow. It is hard and your breathes come in sharp stabs but you are writing. You are thankful for the blood and the stabs because you are writing. Building an Author Website.

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I saw your name on the list, my friend said, weeks later, back at school, with something like hurt in his voice. I had no idea what a novella was or how to write one, and the excitement I felt as I read her note turned to confusion and then sadness. Great and enviable things were happening for me. I thought I could choose a destiny. She walks to class because she lives a few blocks from our classroom building in a beautiful house with her husband and her daughter, and each time I pass it on campus, I feel, like a pulse through the air, the idea of her there.

Years later, when she no longer lives there, and I am teaching there, I feel the lack of it. The dark green trees behind her on the Wesleyan campus sharpen her outline.


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  7. She is dressed in pale colors, pearls at her neck and ears. Her skin glows. She holds out her hand. The class had a rhythm to it dictated by how she had quit smoking to please her new husband. She lets the smoke curl out a little and then exhales brusquely. Thanks, she says, and hands it back, and then she smiles again and walks inside. At least one of them. I feel virtuous as I kick it into the gutter. She undid the top of the thermos with a swift twist, poured a cup of coffee into the cup that was also the thermos top, and sipped at it as she gave us a big smile and looked around the room.

    A shadowy crowd of the faceless rejected formed around us briefly. A feeling of terror at the near miss came and then passed.

    Traditional vs. Modernist approaches, Fine vs. Plain prose styles

    We were long-distance, she told me, at one of our longer smoke breaks. We met at a conference. She laughed at this, as at a prank. She would set her legal pad down, covered in notes, and pour the coffee, which she would drink as she unwrapped the caramels and ate them. A small pile of plastic wrappers grew by her left hand on the desk. Never quote dialogue you can summarize. Avoid describing crowd scenes but especially party scenes. She began almost drowsily, but soon went at a pell-mell pace.

    Not frantic, but operatic. Then she might pause, check her notes in a brief silence, and launch in another direction, as we finished making our notes and the sound of our writing died down.

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    Annie Dillard

    The silence in the room was the sound of our minds turning this over. But she was already on her feet at the chalkboard, writing out a directory of copyediting marks: Stet is Latin and means let it stand… When I draw a line through something and it comes up with this little pig tail on it that means get rid of it. There was that much to say. Each week we turned in our assignments on a Tuesday, and by Thursday we had them back again, the space between the triple-spaced lines and also the margins filled with her penciled notes.

    This had arrows drawn pointing off towards the amazing sentence and the disappointing one. In her class, I learned that while I had spoken English all of my life, there was actually very little I knew about it. English was born from low German, a language that was good for categorization, and had filled itself in with words from Latin and Anglo Saxon words, and was now in the process of eating things from Asian languages. Latinates were polysyllabic, and Anglo Saxon words were short, with perhaps two syllables at best.

    A good writer made use of both to vary sentence rhythms. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel. From the things Annie circled in my drafts, it was clear one answer to my problem really was, in a sense, Maine.

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