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Although it’s the story of one couple, the writer bridges the personal and the universal, relating not only a special wedding day but the joys and challenges faced by anyone getting married, along with insights into life in the rural West.Combining the personal and the universal in an essay that’s about science can give readers a more intimate connection to science and its process, a connection that’s often hard to create in a news story, or even a feature.In “Vortex,” an essay that appears in the book , writer David Quammen starts out in a bit of a fix: he’s stuck upside down in a “hole,” a churning river feature.
Then in the final graphs, Boggs notes that the cicadas have stopped singing.
“The silence is startling at first—I step outside each morning expecting to hear that seashell sound—but it’s also a relief. Transformation is critical to the success of a personal essay, says Evelyn Strauss, a writer and editor who teaches the UCSC essay course in alternating years.
“It’s spring when I realize that I may never have children,” she writes, “and around that time the thirteen-year cicadas return, burrowing out of neat, round holes in the ground to shed their larval shells, sprout wings, and fly to the treetops, filling the air with the sound of their singular purpose: reproduction.” This first sentence leaves the reader wondering what’s brought the narrator to this moment.
And with it, Boggs also sets up the essay’s broader sweep of reproduction across the animal kingdom, from reproductive submission in cooperative marmoset communities to Jamani, a pregnant gorilla that is part of a captive breeding program at the North Carolina Zoo.
“I like to have a personal relationship with my subject,” he says. who’s behind what I write, to the extent one can be clear about who one is.” No matter how much a writer reveals himself, he has to find a way to make his experience resonate with others.
contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis, who edits essays for the biweekly, looks for writers who can get journalistic distance on themselves.
For those already writing about science, an essay can be a way of stepping into an unfamiliar field, whether it’s fluid dynamics or immunology, and exploring the most personally compelling facets.
Essays are, in fact, what got Richard Panek, a journalist and fiction writer, into writing about science.
But a writer’s presence in the essay can both provide an arc to the essay and guide the reader’s journey through a particular subject.
Writer David Rains Wallace usually uses first-person to some degree in both his essays for and his books, which he considers extended essays.