One Year, One Essay

The essay I published on The Huffington Post last week, A Season of Darkness and Light, is the only piece of writing I published in 2014, with the exception of a piece I wrote in 2013 for gurl.com that was published in January.

My father’s suicide is an issue I have always wanted to touch on in my writing, but never quite knew how. While I’ve never met anyone who writes for the money, it was the prospect of winning the large cash prize in Glamour magazine’s essay contest that prompted me to start untangling 19 years of grief and shape it into something publishable. I submitted a 2,000 word disjointed mess in early 2014 and filed it away for a while.

In addition to being a paid contributor to a print magazine, another writing dream of mine is to write Young Adult fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres to read. This summer I decided to actually, finally try to write fiction in an NYU class called Getting Into the Writing Habit. During the class, we tried different prompts and exercises to come up with material. Despite my professor’s encouragement, I’m not positive that fiction is for me. I found it really difficult. There are so many decisions to make when creating a fictional world, and it seems daunting. I felt blocked by all of the clutter that was still in my mind from working on my essay and my feelings about my dad.

In the fall, I signed up for a course with a private writing professor whom I admire. She asked each student to bring in an essay, so I dusted off the Glamour contest essay, reworked it, and read it out loud. I started crying in the middle of the second page, so another student took over. Then she started crying as well. It was a mess, but I got useful feedback.

I rewrote the essay over and over and cried a bunch more along the way. I submitted it to The New York Times. After a week, during the Christmas party at work, they emailed me back, passing on it. I pitched a few more places and didn’t hear back, so at last I published the essay on The Huffington Post.

Getting paid would have been nice, but what I wanted most was to have the essay completed and published so other people who have lost someone could read it and know that it’s ok not to feel like sunshine and rainbows throughout the holiday season. So even though the essay is only around 800 words, I feel like I accomplished something big. I can finally file it away and move on.

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