Essay Play

Personal essays. Lyric essays. Funny essays. Science essays. Serious lyrical funny personal essays about albinism and blindness. Lyrical personal science essays. Music infused into essays about organic chemistry. Essays about science incorporating past loves. And many other strange combinations.

Find it all here.

ESSAYS

Distant Light

Factory LightsThis piece is a collage about memory. Specifically it’s about making journal memory collages, more specifically making one about a boy from my past in 2003, then throwing it in the ocean when I was with a new boy in 2006, and reflecting back on the mistake of throwing out the journal from the present of 2013 far removed from either of the boys but closer to the truth of how throwing out that journal was a self-betrayal because I’m a memory keeper. It also addresses how memory shifts without physical evidence, about what things remain clear and what gets blurry. But at it’s core, the essay is about identity, how it does and doesn’t persist over time and distance.

It’s divided into sections so that the structure of the essay mirrors the structure of the journal I threw in the ocean, with fun section headings and lots of music references. The title was sort of accidental; I just kept writing about different kinds of lights in the distance, and when I was in the middle of writing the essay, it became clear what that meant.

*This essay is in the top 10% being considered at Creative Nonfiction for their essay contest on Mistakes!

Read about that, and the inspiration and writing process for this essay here.

And here’s an excerpt:

Seeing and Not Seeing

This essay explores blindness and albinism from a variety of angles and looks at what it means to see and to not see. It includes science, color, mistaken identities, poetic descriptions of nature, a clueless ex-boyfriend and several references to medical TV shows.

*This essay won third place for Nonfiction in the Kay Snow Writing Contest in 2013!

Here are some excerpts:

Blue Alchemy

5757880136_c209be43c3An essay on writing, memory, and how in memoir writing, these become slippery. It discusses the power writing has to conjure the past into the present, how writing about the past can feel out-of-body, like travel, how writing can inform and transform memory. But the underlying authentic subject here is something about the tension between reality and fantasy, reality and memory, reality and writing about reality.

The title for this one was also almost accidental. As I was writing it, I noticed that over and over, I was writing about objects, furniture, water, imaginary things and skies that were blue.

Here are some excerpts:

On Synesthesia

A lyric essay exploring the phenomenon of perceiving letters, numbers, months and days of the week as different colors.

Here are some excerpts:

Blind Alien Nation

This essay addresses reactions to blindness and draws from the experiences of lots of blind people of all flavors.

Here are some excerpts:

Blind Conventions

blind-722874An in-depth, detailed account of the 2009 National Federation of the Blind convention in Detroit. I was doing my best to channel David Foster Wallace a la his descriptions of state fairs and cruises here, but in my own way. This was a fun one to write, and when I read it to my writing class at the time, we all had some really good laughs.

I went to another convention in 2012 (in which I may have used strategies learned from too much time watching shows like The Bachelor to win a huge scholarship in what felt like a reality-TV-worthy competition), and another in 2013. So there may be forthcoming Blind Convention (Reprise) essays.

Here are some excerpts:

Someone Else’s Life

In this essay, I look at storytelling on TV, and use the lens of my love of Grey’s Anatomy. This explores watching TV and drawing connections to real life (there’s that tension between reality and non-reality again), how sometimes watching characters on TV helps you understand and feel more empathy than you might otherwise, how stories change over time, and how stories change the viewers. It’s also about how TV can be alienating, and looks at Derrick Jensen’s claim in his book The Culture of Make Believe that TV can serve as cultural genocide. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, but at it’s heart, I realized once in the middle of the night, this essay is about loneliness.

Truth and Dare

This one is essentially about choices–whether to take the path of least resistance or the path of thorns, whether to rock the boat or sit down, whether given a chance, you would make the same choices again, and about truth in writing. Choices.

Geomagnetic Imprints and Natal Honing

5348847223_75143210e5An ode to intensity and passion, an essay on missing the seasons and people of the East Coast, about being a transplant in the Pacific Northwest, embracing my inner “bad bitch” in a passive region, and the trials of dating in a place where you feel out of place. It’s also about weather and there’s all kinds of science shit, I mean metaphors, throughout. And there may or may not be (but defnitely is) a comparison of ex-sex to eating potato chips. And something that might remind you a bit of the beginning of Fight Club. That’s all I can say for now.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mustard Gas, Molecular Jewelry and Methamphetamine: In the Trenches of Organic Chemistry

This one is still under construction at the moment, but originated as a blog post that got way too big for its britches and more essay-y than post-y. This one’s all about taking a year of organic chemistry and comparing the experience to war, sort of.

And how feeling frustrated and tortured by a difficult subject can somehow transform into pure, undying love. So much so that when you end up in the hospital with a chemical burn on your eye (really fucking painful, let me tell you) after not reading the instructions to some contact solution, you get overly excited and start talking to the doctor about the organic chemistry reactions in the contact solution. At 3am. While in mind-altering pain. This one includes several references to Breaking Bad, and lyrics from Ingrid Michaelson and Fiona Apple.

Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning, before there was any love between me and organic chem:

Chirality: Hands, Light and Mirror Images

This is more direct science writing. Basically, if I were to write an organic chemistry textbook (I fantasize about this a lot, or about making an organic chemistry textbook zine, which would, of course, be called Respect the Chemistry) this would be the chapter or issue discussing the topic of chirality.

And here’s where science and art meet for me. I have this theory that the reason a lot of people struggle so much with organic chemistry is that, in may ways, it’s as much art as it is science, and requires a lot of right-brain involvement. This is exactly why I adore the subject so intensely, and the topic of chirality seemed perfect for exploring that intersection of art and science.

And my workshop group, total non-scientists in a writing class, seemed to understand it. So there’s that. I really, really want to build some sort of organic chem (and maybe gen chem too) workbook or textbook or zine that somehow infuses my tutoring experience and has better, more detailed and more accessible analogies and examples and explanations than what you usually see in textbooks. It’s to the point where sometimes I feel, seriously, like this is my calling in life.

Science Metaphors for Your Love Life

This is another one that started as a blog post but got a little out of control and seemed like it would work better as an essay. It grew out of many things.

One was talking to two friends, Scott and Karina, who are both in med school now, about some horrible dates I had been on with this guy with whom I had zero chemistry of any sort. No connection–physically, emotionally, intellectually–nothing. Scott said something like, “He was like a noble gas,” because the noble gases are inert, unreactive. And then we went from there, making up all kinds of analogies for dating out of the periodic table. And yes, I know this is nerd threat level midnight here, but so what?

It gets even worse. Another inspiration for this essay was how I used to sit in cell biology class and make metaphors out of the cell’s potassium leak channel and sodium-potassium pump and apply them to my love life. Totally fucking seriously. And also how my friend Natalie and I, while going through organic chemistry together, used to use the idea of thermodynamic vs. kinetic control in reactions as a shorthand for talking about job opportunities and boys.

Sometimes I feel like this crazy mix of scientist artist girl and like the crazy stuff I create and come up with out of that is so weird that it has no place in the world, but I can’t help it. I’ve always been a writer girl, and I also used to kick ass in “Element Bees” in high school chemistry (like a spelling bee but for elements and ions) and had a poster of the periodic table on my wall among all my Nirvana and Alice in Chains posters growing up. Essays like this are the result.

A Tear that Hangs Inside Your Soul Forever

Okay, this may be one of my weirder essays in some ways. It was actually inspired by the movie Hiroshima, Mon Amor, which I watched in a film class. It was a movie with subtitles and I can’t do subtitles, especially in a big class setting. So I got almost nothing out of the movie itself, but for the class, I had to do a bunch of analytical responses and one creative response. There was no way I could do an analytical response to a movie I couldn’t catch most of, so I had to do a creative response. I had no idea what to do, but on the bus on the way home after viewing the movie, I was thinking of some of what the prof had said before showing the film, that it was more lyrical and impressionistic than straightforward, the filmmakers were going for a feeling rather than a literal telling of a story. And the feeling I got from that movie was of these two people going back to each other over and over, even though it seemed kind of torturous to both (I guess the actual movie, I looked up later and found out, takes place over just a few days).

So I wrote this essay, purposely in non-chronological order, (actually I wrote it in chronological order then shuffled it) hoping to impart that same kind of impression. The essay, on the surface, is about trying to get over past loves, but I think it’s actually about growing up, becoming an adult, and sometimes, letting dreams die, in a good way. The crazy thing was, for this creative response assignment, we weren’t really graded, would just receive a check that we completed something, but I put more work into this essay than pretty much anything else that term. And it may be the only time I publicly admit, in my writing, to having watched a whole hell of a lot of Private Practice. It relates, I swear.

MICRO-ESSAYS

sucia-island-ewing-cove-view-orcas-island-mt-constitutionIsland Orcastrations

This is a short essay (under 300 words, which in itself is unheard of in the history of Emilia Jordan the long-winded) short little essay about the music scene on Orcas Island. I wrote it for MTV’s “I’m from Rolling Stone” writing contest.

*This piece was a finalist and was one of four pieces (out of hundreds) to receive an honorable mention from editor Joe Levy!

Here’s the full piece:

Parties

This short piece was written for The Sun‘s magazine’s Readers Write. Every month, there’s a topic and The Sun publishes short pieces written on said topic. I wrote this piece really quickly and sent it off.

*This piece appeared in the Feb 2008 issue of The Sun.

It was a bit edited though. My original version had the f-bomb in it somewhere, and also talked about me eating pot cookies with my writers group (in which I was the youngest by decades), and when they sent me the original draft for publication, both parts were still included, so I guess when it got to press, they decided to tone it down some.

Here’s the whole piece:

OLDER ESSAYS

Though essay writing is something that I somehow stumbled into in my late twenties, there were a few early essays.

A Good Read

This essay, which I wrote during the early days of my senior year of high school, is about The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike.

*It won first place in my high school’s essay contest in 1999! I got $50, which went toward prom expenses.

You can read the whole thing here:

Delicious Poison

This essay, which might be considered a feminist essay, is from my freshman year of college. It’s about teen girl magazines and explores the subtle and not-so-subtle images and impressions these magazines impart to teenage girls. It might be a little overly dramatic in some parts.

*When I turned this in for a class, American Essay in the 1990s, my prof pulled me aside after class and told me I should try to get it published. I never did, but it meant a lot to my young writer self to get that sort of feedback.

Chiaroscuro

This may be the first essay I ever wrote. It was the first assignment in my high school freshman English class. We had to write an essay about ourselves or our personalities or something, and I wrote about what I thought of as “my dark side,” my love of mystery, night, storms, rain (no surprise, if I was writing that at fourteen that I ended up in the Pacific Northwest) and such. My teacher pulled me aside after I turned in this essay. She suggested the title and told me she thought that my writing had a strong voice. I was just so relieved that she didn’t think I was a total nutcase. Or that if she did, she didn’t say it.

And, as they say, many more to come!

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