The Essayist as Detective: Nancy Drewing with Sonya Livingston
January 21, 2020 § 1 Comment
There’s always that one time in our writing attempts when we convince ourselves a topic is too impenetrable to fit into essay form. For Sonja Livingston, it was her childhood church in Rochester, New York. But like all good writers, she searched for a method that would allow her to tackle the topic, eventually relying on the guiding force of the fictional character Nancy Drew. With the help of the teenage detective, Livingston transformed her essays into the book The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion. Here is an excerpt from her intriguing and engaging craft essay:
An orderly world might be heaven in your child’s bedroom or at the dried fruit section of Trader Joe’s, but tidiness is the essay’s kryptonite. The essay thrives on chaos. Curiosity is its basic fuel. Confusion is its sweet spot.
Like Nancy, who undertakes multiple mysteries in one book, an essay often tempts us with seemingly disparate threads. “You’ve really lost it this time,” I said as I moved from statue-hunting to researching relics and holy water. Even when I began to write my essays, dark clouds of doubt hung overhead.