Summer break is a great time to kick back, relax and enjoy yourself and, if you’re lucky, to go on an awesome trip! But how can you translate your amazing vacation into a narrative essay for English class or work it to fit a common application prompt? Here’s some tips to help you out:
Save Mementos From Your Summer
Even if you’re not the sentimental type, make sure to document your summer travels. Take pictures, write diary entries, save train stubs. This is the best way to ensure that you’ll remember your summer well enough to look back and write about it later.
Write an Outline Before Writing Your Essay
Regardless of whether you spent your summer break in Madison, Wisconsin or Madrid, Spain, you should plan out what you’re going to write before diving in. Make a list of what you’ve done over the summer so that you can later narrow down a focus for the essay itself. Keep in mind that the best essay topics aren’t always on the most exciting activities an essay about getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport on the way to Denver could work better than an essay on hiking the Grand Canyon and looking out at the incredible view.
Since you’re going to keep a record of your trip and come up with an outline before writing your essay, you should be able to put some detail into your essay. Be as specific as possible when it comes to your word choice. If you’re talking about some gelato that you ate in Italy, don’t say that it was “delicious.” Instead, say that it was “creamy and chocolatey, with a note of vanilla.”
Focus on Feelings About Your Trip, Not What You Did
If you spent the summer on the beach in Cape Cod, you shouldn’t write about what you did. You should write instead about how you felt while there. An essay that reads “I went to beach, then had lobster for dinner” is not quite as exciting as one that goes, “As I went for a walk on the beach, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to enjoy nature.” Feelings translate better into text than events, and you should try to place those feelings into context.
Stick to Writing About a Small Moment
With any essay you write especially a short one it’s important to focus a narrow moment in time. Don’t write about your entire week in Paris. Instead, write about the moment you got lost in the city at midnight and fumbled your way home in the dark. You don’t have to pick a particularly glamorous moment from your trip, but you should pick one that meant something to you.
Edit Your Essay Carefully
The shorter the essay, the more important precision is. Regardless of length, make sure to carefully read over what you’ve written to make sure every sentence conveys the message you most want displayed. The editing process matters just as much as the writing process, even if it seems less so.
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I Know What You Did Last Summer
Sam Frank, Lucy Ives, Christine Smallwood & Dan Visel
A digital project, part of Inverted Circle
- Sam Frank is a contributing editor of Triple Canopy.
- Lucy Ives is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including The Hermit (2016), the novella nineties (2013), and, most recently, the novel Impossible Views of the World (2017, published by Penguin Press. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, Lapham’s Quarterly, Bomb, Conjunctions, The New Yorker, and Triple Canopy, where she was an editor for several years.
- Christine Smallwood writes the “New Books” column for Harper’s Magazine. Her reviews, essays, and cultural journalism have been published in the New Yorker, Bookforum, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and many other publications. Her fiction has been published in the Paris Review and n+1. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Columbia University and is a core faculty member of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. She is also a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. She is currently writing a collection of short stories.
- Dan Visel is a Triple Canopy contributing editor and researcher living in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I Know What You Did Last Summer” was produced by Triple Canopy as part of its Immaterial Literature project area, which is supported in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Triple Canopy would like to thank Boru O’Brien O’Connell for instigating this project as part of the exhibition "Meeting Point," which was on view at Mount Tremper Arts June 9–August 12, 2012.
Tags: Conversation, Fiction, Identity