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“My best thinking is done following the map of my mind on the page.”

Eva Saulitis, On Writing the Book-Length Memoir

“…An essay arises out of a question, and that question is a variation of the question at the heart of every creative work, short or long:  what does this mean?  What does it mean that there’s a creature called a wolverine on this planet?  What does it mean to get cancer?  What does it mean to lose a child?  What does hate mean?  An essay is a map of the trail a writer takes in pursuing her question.  The question is unanswerable, or it has a myriad of correct answers.  Or its answer is “none of the above.”  A mind following such a map to its edge, to where the map ends, is a mind changed in the process, and that’s what the essay records.  So I started with a question.

The question at the heart of Into Great Silence was “What does it mean that the Chugach transient orcas, the animals I have been studying for half my life, are going extinct?  How can I possibly live with this?  Can I personalize this extinction so a reader understands on a gut level what we’re facing? Takes personally the fact that we exist in what some call a new age of extinctions?  Can I turn a scientific study into art?  And can I do this without my book being a total downer?  You can see already questions generating more questions, which is what happens both in literature and in science…”

Read her full piece at 49 Writers