Randon Billings Noble to discuss different forms of essay in Brown Bag

Randon Billings Noble has a view of writing that is at once both practical and romantic.


The fusion of those two outlooks, Noble said, is the key for how young writers can dodge the “frozen arrows” of the industry. 

“(Writing) can be very difficult sometimes, both privately — you’re at your own desk, in your own head — and it can be difficult out in the world as well, trying to get published or get into graduate programs or getting rejected,” said Noble, an educator, essayist and the Week Seven prose writer-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. “But if you really love what you do, and you can keep that love alive, that will help you stay motivated.”

The practical application of a love of writing, Noble said, is that it will fuel an author through all the ups and downs of their career.

At 12:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 14, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch, Noble will showcase her own love of writing with a Brown Bag lecture on the different forms essays can take: lyric essays, braided essays and hermit crab essays, among others.

In addition to being the founding editor of the online literary magazine After the Art and teaching creative writing classes at American University, Noble recently published the full-length essay collection Be with Me Always through the University of Nebraska Press in March 2019.

“When I first started writing Be with Me Always, I had no idea I was writing a book, I was just writing essays,” she said. “I made the classic rookie mistake of taking any essay I’d ever written that was any good at all and cramming them into a manuscript collection and sending it out. That did not fly, as it should not have. It wasn’t the right move.”

Noble said that Be with Me Always has a loose theme of hauntedness, in part because one of her writerly preoccupations is “the darker nostalgias of life.”

“So I started being more deliberate, and recrafted the collection,” she said. “I tossed out a bunch of essays and wrote some new ones. I started sending it out again, and eventually found a home with, honestly, my dream press: the University of Nebraska Press.”

Of late, Noble said that “so many of us have so many things pressing on us, in terms of the pandemic, in terms of uncertainty about the future and in terms of the social justice movements that are boiling up all over the country.”

“I think that what keeps me going is curiosity,” she said. “Especially for an essayist, curiosity is really what drives a lot of my essays: seeing something strange, not understanding how something works, not quite knowing how I want to live a certain pathway of my life. Curiosity definitely is what keeps me going.”

Tags : After the ArtBe with Me Alwaysbrown bagChautauqua Writers’ Centerliterary artsRandon Billings Noble

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.