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Essay Writing Coaching

Why craft an essay or research article?
What is Rebecca’s published nonfiction like?
How does one-on-one essay coaching work?

Why craft an essay or research article?

Critical writing is a terrific way to investigate any real-world question that confronts you.  Maybe you want to pitch some course of action to your company or organization—researching and writing a proposal is an excellent way to develop and focus your ideas.  Maybe you wish you could better express your position with regard to some complex political or social issue—writing an essay will make your argument more cogent and persuasive, and you’ll know that every point you make is backed with sound evidence.  Maybe you want to investigate potential career paths—a research paper comparing their respective costs and benefits can help you decide which is best for you.  Maybe you’re interested in improving your writing skills in preparation for college, or to foster lifelong learning—good idea, since strong writing skills will serve you in any field of study. 

Whatever your motivation for taking it on, critical writing will make you a better thinker.  It’s a rigorous, structured process that asks you to gather information about a chosen topic, then clarify and hone your ideas about the material you’ve amassed until you can state your position toward it, or sum up what matters about it, in a single focused statement (also known as a thesis, or claim).  The first critical essay I ever wrote, at 14, was about Homer’s Odyssey.  I had made a point in the body of my paper that wasn’t covered by the claim.  My teacher, Mrs. Tibbets, told me to take it out.
“But I want to say that!” I told her.  “It’s important!”
“Then write another paper.”
“It’s important in this paper,” I said. 
She crossed her arms, adamant.  “If it belongs in this paper, it has to help prove your thesis and relate somehow to all these other points you’re making.  It has to contribute to your claim.”  It took me hours to figure out exactly how to integrate all the ideas I wanted to convey, but the sense of satisfaction I had when I finished was immense.  My thoughts (at least, the ones about Odysseus) were in order.

People tend to think of critical writing as dry and lifeless compared to creative writing, but non-fiction projects can be just as exciting, just as much a process of discovery, as composing a story or poem.  While it’s true that you’ll probably begin with an opinion about your topic—a tentative thesis—you’re almost certain to unearth unexpected evidence in your research, and find new perspectives on the material as you write.  Don’t be surprised if your evolving thoughts burst through the confines of your original position, so that the argument you end up making is deeper, truer, and more comprehensive than anything you dreamed of saying when you started. 

You may even find that your way of processing information is changed by a critical writing project.  There’s no better way to cultivate an open, yet discriminating mind.

What is Rebecca’s published nonfiction like?

Here are links to two published essays written in different styles for different audiences.  They involved very different types of research.  Yet each essay makes a claim that synthesizes multiple points and calls on specific evidence to back its argument.  As these essays show, the critical essay is a flexible form that’s useful in a variety of venues.

The first essay is about a site where I served in the early ‘90s as an AmeriCorps member—an adult learning center in a silver mining area fallen on hard times.  The essay’s claim was simply that our community had a problem, and that the learning center was helping to solve it.  The essay won first prize in the Northwest National Service Symposium’s essay competition for 1998, is still cited by the Corporation for National and Community Service as a resource for developing a literacy program.

“Tapping the Need.”

The second essay is a research project originally published in Twentieth Century Literature in Spring 2003.  It deals with a group of women writers who studied under that flamboyant and controversial spiritual teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff.   The basic claim of this paper is that despite some pretty shocking practices, Gurdjieff’s program empowered the women, furthering both their spiritual development and their growth as writers.

“An Intersection of Interests”

Unrelated as these topics may seem, both interested me deeply, and writing each of them helped to move me forward on my life path.  Any critical project you undertake will be just as specifically tailored to your interests.  It will be driven by the unique questions that occupy you at this moment, the ones that can best propel you forward into your most fulfilling future.

How does one-on-one essay coaching work?

An essay workshop with Rebecca includes the following components: 

For Rebecca's qualifications to teach an essay workshop, see "About Rebecca."


For more information about the one-on-one essay workshop, or to schedule a free initial consultation, write to Rebecca@storyconscious.com.

Here are some links that may enrich your essay-writing practice:

The Writing Process - Discovering What You Have To Say
Rebecca talks about the essay writing process in a video clip. Thanks to Antioch University Seattle for allowing us to link to the clip.

Antioch Virtual Writing Center
At Antioch University’s brand-new virtual writing center, you can get free access to resources for essay-writers.

Purdue OWL (online writing lab)
Even if I weren’t a Purdue alum, I’d still highly recommend the Purdue OWL (online writing lab), which offers free access to a wealth of handouts on writing, research, sentence mechanics, grammar, and more.