Essay About My Self Portrait

Essay About My Self Portrait-39
She can explain, in a sentence or two, that the friend was “eating a cheeseburger and smoking a Marlboro” the last time she saw her and she didn’t have “anything else in the house to offer” her, which is why she really didn’t feel that bad about the soup.We don’t need a lot of reflection in these sections to understand what it is that Einstein is saying about herself, what she thinks these choices say about her character.The language she chooses—the words “sniffling” and “wheezing,” which make us hear it—and the directness of the action both help us see it happen cinematically, even though it’s only taking up two sentences of the essay, rather than two paragraphs or two pages.

She can explain, in a sentence or two, that the friend was “eating a cheeseburger and smoking a Marlboro” the last time she saw her and she didn’t have “anything else in the house to offer” her, which is why she really didn’t feel that bad about the soup.We don’t need a lot of reflection in these sections to understand what it is that Einstein is saying about herself, what she thinks these choices say about her character.The language she chooses—the words “sniffling” and “wheezing,” which make us hear it—and the directness of the action both help us see it happen cinematically, even though it’s only taking up two sentences of the essay, rather than two paragraphs or two pages.

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(Full disclosure: the writer is also a friend, but I’d love it anyway.) I love it for many reasons—the voice, the tone, the sense of humor, the overall structure—but there are three big reasons I keep teaching it.

1) It has excellent concrete detail and miniature scenes.

One of the things my students have the hardest time with is writing in scene when they don’t need pages and pages of dialogue and description, when just a few sentences will do the trick.

I think all beginning writers struggle with scene in general, but the macro seems easier than the micro.

This last question asks students to tell me the single essay we read that taught them the most about writing creative nonfiction, the most important thing it taught them, and how they did something similar in their own work.

Every semester, without fail, no matter what other essays I teach, a solid 75% of students (often more) choose the same essay: “Self-Portrait in Apologies” by Sarah Einstein.

In other sections, though, we need that reflection: in “Apology to a Well-Meaning History Teacher,” or “Apology to the Man Whose Woods We Burned Down,” or “Apology to My Martyred Forebears,” Einstein goes in more depth, reflecting on why she made these choices in the moment, what has changed, and why she now feels guilty about her actions.

The essay is a great model for showing my students why choices—and reflecting on those choices—is important, but it’s also perfect for showing them the difference between the choices that need more context and reflection and the ones that can speak for themselves.

3) It’s the perfect essay to lead into a writing exercise.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say, right here and now, that the #1 reason I teach this essay so often is because it so easily lends itself to a writing exercise—and that writing exercise so often leads to some of the best writing my students produce all semester.

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