Good resources for the craft of essay writing

Because the essay form is so hard to define and put in a box (thankfully) it can be hard to find resources for writing essays well....any thoughts on particularly good anthologies or books about the craft of essay writing?  I'm particularly interested in the lyric essay, which seems to elude categorization- or instruction...




  • Thank you all for the resources. Brenda Miller co-wrote a new book that just came out in 2012. The reviews are excellent, but I couldn't find the one you mentioned--at least not on Amazon.

  • Touchstone is what we used in my Masters.  One of my professors is in there.  It's excellent.  Also: Dinty Moore who was in there and wrote Crafting the Personal Essay: A guide to writing and publishing non-fiction.  And I already asked him if he'd be at any AWP - but he's on the committee and can't present and be on the committee at the same time. 

    Thanks for sharing titles!  I'll get the In Short!

  • Just completed an 8-week course focused on essay at The Writer's Studio,  University of Chicago. Used 2 excellent anthologies that encompassed good diversity of styles and writers chosen for brevity. Included excellent discussion points. IN SHORT: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones. Not very new but hasn't lost its usefulness. The other is the TOUCHSTONE ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY CREATIVE NONFICTION, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone. Also find THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS series worthwhile. Authors included summaries of their motivations for writing the essays - particularly relevant in this genre. For general reference, I nabbed one of my son's college books that contained a substantial essay section, LITERATURE FOR COMPOSITION: ESSAYS, FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA .


     Not to be negative but I also have the Lopate and Moore books. I was somewhat disappointed by the Moore book, not sure why, possibly seemed not as focused on improving understanding of the genre. But this discussion has definitely encouraged me to take another look! 


  • Looks like others beat me to the punch on Lopate and Moore.

    @Allison, you mentioned Media Bistro.  Is it worth the amount it costs to join?  I'm just starting with the "trying to make money with writing" stage of my writing journey, as well as doing the literary essays that will just add "two free copies" to my bookshelves.  I've seen MB mentioned, but can't decide if it's worth it because I can't see what they offer unless I pay first.

  • I just finished "Naked, Drunk and Writing," by Adair Lara. It's quite funny and has great advice on writing the personal essay.

  • The annual anthology of Best American Essays is also good for finding where they're going and what's being done in essaying. Another good book is Literary Journalism, edited by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer. Coincidentally I was just looking these up a couple days ago when writing about a debate between journalism and essays. It will run on Friday:
  • I've participated in a number of essay workshops and the one book everyone seems to come back to is Philip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay. It's an excellent reference and in it, Lopate addresses each category of the genre. Another source, although more of a study guide but quite good is by Bryan Greethnam, How to Write Better Essays. More recently there have been some excellent on-line writing sites so you may want to "Google" the lyric essay.