The Rebellious Essay

Cara Ellen Modisett.

I’m not an essayist, but at this year’s Roanoke Regional Writers Conference I sat in on a class called “The Rebellious Essay.” I liked the title. I was curious.

The session was taught by Cara Ellen Modisett, a woman of many talents: magazine editor, English and Journalism instructor, on-air host of classical music for our regional NPR station and music director.

As I recall, Modisett asked us what came to mind when we thought of essays. Several people chimed in with these words:


Here are points that Modisett (and perhaps others) shared about the form.

An essay is the “force of the author’s opinion.” Voice is important. We write to learn. An essay is about understanding the world. Modisett asked us to take a few minutes to write a mini essay describing an object.


It has teeth.
Jagged, gold in color.
They fit perfectly into my life.
When they turn, I enter.
My world (and those closest to me)
opens up and comes alive.
I panic when I think I’ve lost
such a valuable, significant
and small piece of metal.

Yes, it’s a key.


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