Three summers ago, I was Elizabeth Benedict’s student at the New York State Summer Writer’s Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. At her evening reading that year, she chose a then unpublished personal essay about the murder of her uncle by “Mad Dog Taborsky.” It was the kind of essay that I love reading, where there is a well-told story, but also a much deeper emotional sub-text that sneaks up on you and then suddenly reaches out and touches you in a personal way. I was very moved by the essay and her reading of it that night, so much so that when it came time for my personal conference with her, which was supposed to be about my writing, I couldn’t help but conduct an interview, asking her questions about how she had composed the piece, and its prospects for getting published.
The essay was another example of a skill the Benedict showed in her novel Almost.One reads a story about a person completely different than oneself — different age, different gender, different background — and yet when the time for the emotional epiphany comes, you suddenly become aware of something personal that you’ve been carrying around with you. If there is one single goal that I have in my owning writing, it’s to have my readers experience the same thing.
Benedict’s essay was finally published by Daedalus this past summer. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant has posted a reprint on his blog (hopefully with all the appropriate permissions).
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