Writing the Ordinary: Exploring the “Familiar” Essay with Meghan O’Gieblyn (Washington Island Literary Festival)

Sep 22, 2023 10:00AM—12:00PM


Red Barn, 1474 S. Shore Dr., Washington Island, WI 54246

Cost 75.00



While the market for nonfiction often gives the impression that memoirists and personal essayists must possess extraordinary life experiences, there’s a robust tradition of essayists who find wisdom and unexpected insights in the mundane (sometimes without even leaving the house). This genre, sometimes called the “familiar essay,” stretches back to the origins of the form and is known for its intimate tone, its improvisational style, and its tendency to meditate on everyday experiences (see Montaigne’s “On Friendship” or Zadie Smith’s “Joy”). In this workshop, we’ll explore classic and contemporary essays that reflect on habitual pleasures–the joys of driving, the virtues of boredom–and consider how the quotdian actions we often take for granted can become the sites of rich and enlightening ruminations. In addition to providing tips for brainstorming subject matter, we’ll examine specific craft strategies, including how to deploy the well-crafted anecdote, and how to create the illusion of “thinking aloud” on the page.