October 2017 Meeting

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

7:00 to 8:45 pm

Moira Dann – The Personal Essay: from Francis Bacon to blog posts

Aldous Huxley called the essay “… a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.” It’s a wonderful form that’s long offered a wide range of possibilities.

Often, in the modern day, writers and readers both bring journal excerpts and raging rants into the essay tent, but Moira Dann disagrees. As Facts & Arguments editor at The Globe and Mail for close to a decade, Dann read thousands and thousands of essays submitted for publication by both amateur and professional writers. She concluded that the very best were framed by observation, examination and extrapolation, finessed to perfection by insight, detail and craft.

She has heard doomsayers claim the personal essay is dead because the marketplace of ideas has almost drowned in the confessional/memoir essay. She foresees a long life for the form, as it’s a good framework for outlining ideas that might grow to book-length non-fiction; it’s also a good framework for crafting blog posts.

In her talk to VWS, Dann will explain her OEE essay format and present for discussion a few of the best/worst examples she has come across.

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Moira Dann graduated in May 2016 with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from University of King’s College in Halifax; the book she wrote to earn the degree is called The Mothers of Confederation: A Social History of Canada’s Birth. She also studied at Banff (with W.O. Mitchell and Alistair MacLeod) and Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre (where she wrote a film seen at TIFF and nominated for a Genie).

Trained as a journalist and broadcaster, Moira was a long-time editor of the Facts & Arguments page at The Globe and Mail; she also edited a volume of F&A essays published by Penguin. She self-describes as “a history nerd” and loves writing about women from the past who had no voice in the public sphere. A failed standup comic, Moira likes the sound of her own voice and likes to teach and give public talks.

She shares a birthplace with Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author Saul Bellow (Lachine, Quebec) and a birthdate with the Dalai Lama (July 6). Moira has a distinctive laugh and has been offered work as a rieur (a laughing claque member; she lives in Victoria with her husband, Sam Bufalini).

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All members are encouraged to bring their writing news and ideas to share with the group. Tables are available for members to display their published works or related services.


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