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Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction
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Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  494 ratings  ·  67 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
Paperback, 262 pages
Published September 8th 2010 by Writer's Digest Books (first published August 11th 2010)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  494 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: merkins, non-fiction
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 of these books there are asinine and embarrassing writin ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dinty W. Moore begins his informational collection with the words “The personal essay is perhaps the oldest form of nonfiction prose, and yet it remains one of the most commonly misunderstood” (p1). The personal essay is misunderstood. I have tried to explain the genre to numerous friends and family since deciding to pursue a concentration in creative nonfiction through an MFA program. One person I work with has a hard time understanding the difference between “creative nonfiction” and “historical ...more
Tarn Wilson
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for beginning writers, teachers of creative non-fiction, or experienced writers looking for prompts.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Michele Cacano
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
Will update later. Briefly, I found this book to be thorough, specific, and full of useful information.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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 rated it really liked it
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 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
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Elly (imaginemorebooks)
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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!
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
A "how to" book that is really more about all the possibilities.
Michael Brantley
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Down to earth, easy to follow, made some notes and got some good ideas.
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 h
Alexandria Morales
Sep 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Racist micro-aggressions like utilizing Scarlett O'Hara as the portrait of a compelling heroine when Gone With the Wind glorifies the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and can be interpreted as a white supremacist text. At a certain juncture, he expresses jealousy and dismay at the popularity of "ethnic memoirs", considering he is a white male, and names an author who recently published a memoir exploring her parents' experience in Japanese internment camps. Why would someone express envy at the leg ...more
MC Dotson
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-craft
I read this book while taking a Creative Nonfiction class for my MFA. As a novice in personal essay writing, I found this book a great read in order to learn the basics of this form. It covers many topics and categories within essay writing, depending on what you're interested in or would like to try that may be out of your comfort zone. Moore also includes examples of essays he and other authors have written, as well as practical exercises at the end of the chapters. Something interesting he al ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The way we learned how to write essays in school turned most of us off from having anything to do with essays. In fact, a lot of the ways subjects are taught in school turns us away from topics that are actually pretty interesting if presented in an interesting way. But that's a subject for an essay, which brings us back to this book.
This is not you fifth-grade teacher's essay instruction. This is the kind of essay that gets published in magazines and anthologies. These are heartfelt, pers
Sky Greene
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book had helpful ideas, tips and suggestions for those that write, or want to write, various forms of nonfiction. It included poems, a variety of types of essays, memoirs, and even touched on blogging. I liked many of activites to get your creativity flowing. I also liked how it was set up so if there was a particular area you weren't interested in, you could skim through it or just skip it altogether and move on to the next chapter.
Jesse Stoddard
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am delighted to find a great book on my favorite kind of writing! Dinty Moore covers a lot of territory in this survey of the topic, including examples from the earliest writers who pioneered the art of the essay, to the fast-paced World Wide Web blogosphere. He gives a series of prompts after lessons that are the perfect way to prime the pump for you to embark on the process of “assaying” your subject matter.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I will turn to again and again as I continue my writing. Reading it was like having a private writing teacher--he had lots of great tips and really understands the mind and pitfalls of the beginning/struggling writer. I will be going back to each chapter and try out the writing exercises he suggests. I'm glad I stumbled on this one on Amazon!
Theresa Daley
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is beyond fantastic.
I am currently studying a professional writing degree and this book was/is truly helpful.
Clearly written, easy to read and very, very informative.

I read this book a year or two ago and to this day I have not forgotten Moore's wisdom.
It is brilliant!
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Some good info and exercises in here....however, definitely scaled for the beginner, and written as for a very bright 8th grader--simple and nearly condescending. The tone of the writing, therefore, was a bit off-putting.
Simon Stegall
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Just another textbook. Not particularly amazing, but not particularly bad, either.
Maha Abed
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Contains useful tips and exercises for writing and thinking about approaches to creative non-fiction. A quick and easy read, great for novices to the genre.
Roland Martinez
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good solid writing advice and good ideas. It motivated me to want to start writing again. Note that I'm not actually writing, just wanting to start. Great reading suggestions in the appendix as well.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a great tool for practicing writing. Each chapter has a writing prompt at the end to help reinforce what concept he teaches.
Stephen Hiemstra
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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:

Nathan Albright
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Melissa Grunow
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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. Th
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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.