Sunday, July 9, 2017

Essay wars

“If you are not struggling,” our professor told us when it came time to write our first essay, “something is wrong. It’s supposed to be hard work.” A writer herself, she was addressing the wide assortment of students who had decided, for whatever reason, that a master’s degree in liberal studies was the next thing on life’s agenda. We were nurses, teachers, administrators, lawyers, artists, engineers, nutritionists, and journalists, and for all of us, her words turned out to be true. Writing the course essays was always like going into battle.

Since that first class three years ago, I have written essays about duty, community, colonialism, progress, realism, Marxism, environmentalism and feminism. I have explored aspects of Roman history, the novels of Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf, and the impact of the French revolution on Parisian society. I have written a lot of essays, and each was a struggle.

So, the idea of going back to my journalistic roots and doing a profile of a little theatre for a course on the arts scene in Vancouver seemed like a slam dunk. What could go wrong? The theatre itself was perfect for the story, and the people I had to interview were wonderful – never did a news reporter have such co-operation! But combining journalism, academic material and my own opinion about it all turned it into one of the, shall I say -- most intense -- essay-writing battles to date.

But the prof – ironically the same one who told us essays are supposed to be hard work – liked it. Thanks to her, it’s been published on the Ormsby Review, an online site described as “a new journal for serious coverage of B.C. literature and other arts.” Another battle won, and just a year’s worth of essays to go!


  1. It looks fabulous online with he photos! I'll be glad when you're out of the war zone....

  2. Congrats Carol! Excellent essay and totally worthy of much greater exposure; hope you will continue to contribute to Ormsby Review.
    I share your sentiments with respect to the struggle to produce essays; this last essay was no different, however the results more satisfying. Practice certainly helps!

  3. Great piece, Carol! I remember your comments in class comparing Peter and Jerry's takes on the health of the theatre scene and I think you've done a beautiful job exploring that tension here. And added so much value to that exploration through your case study of Pacific Theatre. I really enjoyed reading this. And it's heartening to know I wasn't the only one who struggled with the essay. So thanks for that too!