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Rebecca Solnit, in her introduction to this year’s edition of Best American Essays, offers some wonderful, succinct definitions of essay. I know I will take this information to students when I teach creative nonfiction classes.

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…essays deliver both and maintain the diplomatic relations between journalism and poetry, owning something from both territories, for functioning in both.

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…writers who begin with the news but go on to contemplate or analyze it in ways that are proscribed in newspaper journalism’s idea of straight reporting.

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An important topic doesn’t make an important essay, but addressing what matters can be part of what makes an essay significant.

To that I would add, a seemingly unimportant topic doesn’t make an unimportant essay. Look at essays out there about snails, or No. 2 pencils, or hummingbirds, etc.

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And my favorite quote of the introduction — about reading, not writing:

Reading anything of length is still a solitary act, a settling into slowness and thoughtfulness, and to decide to read is to decide to pay attention to what someone else thought when they themselves were solitary, reflective.

Reading and writing — connecting two solitary figures through time and space. Love it.

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