Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Personal Essay and Me: The sudden path from zero to urgent

Had you asked me a year ago if I would ever be writing about the Jersey Shore, the answer would have been "probably not." Although I'm a native born, lifelong Jersey Girl -- I don't pump my own gas; I love Bruce Springsteen, like Bon Jovi, and eat in diners -- unlike almost every Jersey Girl I've ever known, I never developed an early childhood crush for the Jersey Shore. 

For me, The Shore is a place I learned to appreciate only long after I'd initially dismissed it -- something I thought little about until after Hurricane Sandy destroyed so much of the Shore last fall. Which is when I began writing about my complicated relationship with this iconic part of my home state.

For me, this is how it is with essays and personal nonfiction narratives: one day a topic is of no appeal, and the next, I have something to say, and urgently. This is how an essay begins for me -- a moment, an awakening, a realization, an urge; that itch that won't go away until I pay attention, on paper.

The eventual essay that I began in November 2012, titled "Not a Shore Thing," is now live -- just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the storm's destruction -- over at bioStories, a lovely online home for personal stories.

Here's an excerpt:

....When I was about eight, I sashayed about my living room, empty Coke bottle in hand, singing along to the Drifters' sixties classic Under the Boardwalk. I hoped and wondered if I'd be kissed on a warm blanket in the slatted shade, people walking above. Eventually, I was that girl, or at least a version of her, though the kissing all took place right on the Boardwalk: some stringy blond boy whose name I'd forget, a high school boyfriend, my fiancĂ©.  
        But before any of that, and even during some of that, I was a shore snob.
        My parents were to blame -- if showing your child the world beyond one's home state has anything to do with blame. When my father, an early polyester manufacturer, wanted to get away, he meant an airplane ride and five-star resort, where the beach was just one of 18 amenities. Boardwalk games, un-air conditioned rentals, motel pools, and waffles and ice cream were something other kids told me about...

You can read the whole piece here.  And please do drop in at bioStories from time to time, where editor Mark Leichliter posts new essays every five weeks or so.

(Image: Flickr Creative Commons / b0janagles)


Andrea said...

Beautiful essay, as always!

Lisa Romeo said...

Thank you Andrea. said...

That essay is lovely. Every word.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks very much for reading, @fullsoulahead!