Painting Myself for Others: The ‘Hum of Perpetual Noticing’ in the Personal Essay

Barnett, Tracey
Harvey, Siobhan
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Master of Creative Writing
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Auckland University of Technology

If the art of the personal essay is to birth the inner workings of one’s brain, be warned; this writer has just birthed a litter of teething puppies—and worryingly, a good half of them are unruly bitches.

As a columnist and journalist, the initial idea for this project was to personalize and deepen old journalism stories and issues from fairly constrained 800-word opinion columns I'd written in the past. Instead, let me introduce the mangy litter that has no resemblance to its parent whatsoever, 'Small Slaps', a work of sixteen personal essays.

The resulting collection is purposefully diverse, personal, first person and decidedly not academic in focus. Though some reportage pieces are revisited, ranging from interviewing former political prisoners along the Thai-Burmese border, to covering Obama’s first nomination for president in 2008; that is where journalism left the page.

This collection took an unexpected turn into the uncomfortably intimate and occasionally playful, looking at topics ranging from women’s body issues, childbirth, the last days with a dying friend, to a lover’s made-up, snarky response to a D.H. Lawrence letter and twelve-steps on how to win friends and influence people by writing—yes, a personal essay, among other topics.

Personal essays , Non-fiction essays , Memoir , Essays , Columnist , Journalism
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