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Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  376 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Award winning essayist Scott Russell Sanders once compared the art of essay writing to "the pursuit of mental rabbits"--a rambling through thickets of thought in search of some brief glimmer of fuzzy truth. While some people persist in the belief that essays are stuffy and antiquated, the truth is that the personal essay is an ever-changing creative medium that provides an ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published August 11th 2010 by Writers Digest Books
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MJ Nicholls
The word missing from the title is "beginner's." Guide. This is a beginner's guide to writing and publishing creative nonfiction.

In fact, creative nonfiction as we understand it now: a broad plateau of autobiographical arms and experiential limbs, isn't covered in much detail. It would be better, in fact, if we removed the phrase "Creative Nonfiction" from the title, as Dinty hardly gets to the meat and bones of this ever-expanding genre.

As a book for novice essayists, it's helpful. Like most o
♥ Ibrahim ♥

Look at that! I have been writing essays all along and I didn't know it until my friend Scott Bridger mentioned to me that he enjoyed my Arabic essays on the marxist site and how he was share them with his friends in the Holy Land. I wondered, "How come my essays don't sound like those stiff, sterile essays we had to write in the seminary in order to sound scholarly?" Dinty Moore has the answer. An essay, as the French verb "essayer" would indicate, is an attempt, a try, and here it is a persona
Andrea Badgley
Jan 30, 2013 Andrea Badgley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
I want to run away from my life for a year and do nothing but write after reading this book. With every chapter - "Writing the Lyric Essay," "Writing the Spiritual Essay," "Writing the Nature Essay," "Writing the Travel Essay" - I thought, "AHA! I want to write lyric essays/spiritual essays/nature essays/travel essays!"

Moore offers clear guidance in a friendly, likeable voice; example essays with commentary on what works and how the author achieved success; motivating quotes from seasoned write
Mark Abrams
May 16, 2014 Mark Abrams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This e-book is chock-full of information, including helpful tips and links to websites which were tremendously helpful. If you write memoirs or essays of any kind, this book is well worth reading in depth. I am still visiting some of the websites offered and may read the entire little book again!

I would heartily recommend this book to writers of essays and perhaps those who are thinking about writing this type of work and really don't know where to begin or when to stop. This easy to read book w
Nov 03, 2013 Alyssa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Introduces the various types of personal essays, and I appreciated the writing exercises which created a lot of content for me to start working from. The publishing part of the book only spanned maybe two chapters. I'd recommend this guide to students and those who are still exploring the medium, but not to those who are already in the game and already publishing.
Sep 22, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book for anyone interested in writing the personal essay. It is full of the wisdom of experience and is extremely accessible. Would also be good as a text for a writing course focused on the personal essay since it has many prompts.
Nov 22, 2016 Elly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I had to read for uni and I tooootally forgot to add it here! I have been writing more personal essays recently and I actually think it was helpful. Mainly the prompts for essays really got me thinking and led me to writing essays I never would have thought to write otherwise!
Jul 16, 2012 Stobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for novice authors trying to find their voice. Good exercises and important points made for writers in danger of believing their life is more exciting than it really is.
Michael K.
Jun 15, 2016 Michael K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Down to earth, easy to follow, made some notes and got some good ideas.
Aug 30, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "how to" book that is really more about all the possibilities.
Erika Dreifus
(Text from interview originally published in *The Practicing Writer*)

I met Dinty W. Moore a number of years ago through the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, of which he is now president. His concern for writing pedagogy, and his particular expertise in nonfiction, impressed me at the start, and they continue to inspire me. When I learned about his newest book, *Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction*, I asked him instantly if he'd particip
Lona Fitzgerald
I read this for my creative writing class. It was written in a very straight-forward manner, which made it easy to understand and read. I also really appreciated all of the examples and prompts that the book gave. However, while the topics it covered were good and essential for a well-written personal essay, I felt like it lacked depth or that more guidance on how to incorporate it into your own writing could have been given. Nonetheless, a more engaging and helpful writing "textbook" than most.
Nathan Albright
Dec 02, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge
When a writer has been given or has chosen for himself the name of a tasty can of beef stew, there is little choice that he has other than to engage in the craft of creative nonfiction.  Having read a book by the author before [1], I had a good idea of what to expect in that I did note expect the author to be completely serious.  To be sure, he was not serious here, although he proved himself more serious than he has been on other occasions, and as a fellow author of personal essays I found much ...more
Stephen Hiemstra
Walking into a dinner of venison leaves one suspicious that you are too late for the hunt. An essay is more about the hunt and less about the dinner, according to Dinty Moore. It is the tension of the hunt that draws the reader in.

In his book, Crafting the Personal Essay, Moore both describes the genre of an essay and how it is constructed. There are, of course, numerous types of essays, each with its own particular interests and contributions to the genre. Moore writes:

“The personal essayist (t
Mar 12, 2017 Silvia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book with useful tips, examples, and suggestions. This is the kind of book that you put on your shelf and check from time to time depending on the reading you have to do.
Melissa Grunow
Nov 04, 2014 Melissa Grunow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally got a chance to read this book--which has been on my list for years--during the semester break. I was seeking ways to add new writing assignments and adapt my lessons in my creative writing classes, so I started flipping through "Crafting the Personal Essay" for ideas. Next thing I know, it's hours later, and I'm halfway through the book with notes filling the margins. But not just for teaching; I was jotting notes for myself, for my own writing.

Even though I've been writing personal
Aug 29, 2014 Androo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
The problem with many writing craft/how-to books is that they begin to blur into one another after some time. I've taken to telling would-be writers to read only a handful because of their repetitive nature. You're much better off reading actual work after a certain point.

I don't think that's the case with Moore's book. He quickly summarizes important points that writers should consider during creating essays, and these tips are those that are familiar to more experienced writers. The real value
Erin Lyndal
I had a very mixed reaction to this book. It's pretty comprehensive, which I like, but on the other hand, I felt that Moore draws too rigid of boundaries between different kinds of creative nonfiction. For example, the book is divided into chapters on memoirs, travel writing, nature writing, lyric essays, etc., boundaries which real writers rarely use. I also felt that he was a bit rigid and unrealistic in some of the advice he gives (such as telling readers not to do any revision until they hav ...more
Holli B
I first became acquainted with Dinty Moore's writing in the book 'The Accidental Buddhist'. I loved his writing style and I followed along on my own cloud of bliss as I read his words. With that experience in mind, I wanted to read this book in the hopes that it would impart useful information for essay writing. Unfortunately, I felt that the book drifted off into places that seemed superfluous. For example, after muddling along and reading a certain author's essays and learning about their writ ...more
Kathryn Johnson
Jan 22, 2017 Kathryn Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love to write and read. I used to be an avid reader, reading more books than I could keep a count. Today, not so much. I've read hundreds of books in my life-to-date, both fiction, and non-fiction. I've read countless Writer's Digest how-to books, and own many of them. I liked Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction as it was easy to read and understand. I have many favorite writing creative non-fiction/essay books, and this has now become another on ...more
Antoinette Perez
In searching for books and classes to improve my blog writing, many signs kept pointing me to the essay. As my first read on the topic of essay writing, it was incredibly helpful. I followed writing prompts for the first half of the book, which resulted in many, many pages of output -- nothing is "finished" yet, which is OK. And I'm sure whatever seems worthy of bringing to the finish line will need lots of revision, and that will require my reading a different book because this one didn't cover ...more
Carolyn James
Feb 24, 2015 Carolyn James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I bounce back and forth between writing fiction and non-fiction and overall found this book super helpful in helping me understand the different categories my personal essay's would fall under. As I read, I tweaked old work, learned new styles and found myself jotting down new topics I hadn't thought of exploring before. I like how this was more about the "feeling" a personal essay needed to capture rather than just telling the reader how to plan their writing. I got a lot out of this guide and ...more
Jeremy Cole Crook
Moore's book is almost a text book for a collegiate course on the Personal Essay. I loved it for the information. But hated the constant interruptions and excerpts from the classic essayists he uses repeatedly for examples. If you're like me -- plan on making a living and life out of this craft -- read it, reference it, and keep it on an accessible shelf. If not, don't waste your time. There are better books for aspiring writers of almost every other genre.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
This book is a good place for nonfiction writers to start. Author Dinty W. Moore assumes the writer has a basic understanding of sentence, paragraph and essay structure. He uses this book to help writers find a source of inspiration to try out various kinds of essays including the spiritual, the memoir, food, nature, humor, travel, etc. He writes his own essay, showing his thought processes and how they are inspired by several essays that he includes and discusses.
Jennifer Palmer
Jun 12, 2015 Jennifer Palmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing, 2015
Approachable, easy-to-read, and full of examples, prompts and exercises to get your creative juices flowing. At times, it's a touch patronizing (when he quotes Montaigne and then "translates" for us, for example), but still, a good read and a good source of information. I have a pile full of prompts and potential essay topics now, both from his direct suggestions and from the rabbit trails they led me down.
Oct 27, 2016 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a pretty fine book..interesting tips..many of which may work..I'd say 'crafting the personal essay' is a must read if you want some insight into publishing world and especially into how you can get your essay collection published..actually usually when I type my essay I look for some books that may help me with the whole publishing process and all in all this book was quite helpful
Zoe MacKenzie
I found this book to be a great reminder of what it takes to appeal to readers. It's so easy to forget about your audience, but this book gently reminds you that, while writing is a form of self expression, it is also about creating a piece that is a refreshing easy read that your readers can enjoy.
Don't forget about your audience (but have fun, and be creative in the meanwhile)!
Jun 11, 2015 Sher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I liked this book; it has a lot of helpful information. Writing exercises. Explanations and suggestions for things to keep in mind when writing various types of essays such as; travel, nature, spiritual, personal, food and so on. Terrific list of online sources for online literary journals. How to write for an audience. Examples and partial examples of outstanding essays in various genres.
If you write any type of creative nonfiction, please read this. It's a excellent study on the craft and should be periodically pulled down from your shelves and studied as a refresher. Not to mention one particular essay in it that made me laugh, snort, cry, and eventually have to run to the bathroom.
Jul 04, 2012 Annette rated it it was amazing
If you are a writer, or an aspiring writer, this is a great book. You nod and whisper YES! when he points out something that has struck you as well.
I felt validated and know I am on the right path.
Thanks Mr. Moore for your clear, concise writing that has helped me improve my own writing.
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Dinty W. Moore is the author of numerous books, and has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse. He edits BREVITY, the journal of concise creative nonfiction ( and teaches at Ohio University.
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