The best personal essays are just that — personal. They are, as freelance writer Danielle Corcione said of one of her recent pieces, “raw and vulnerable.”
“That’s what people appreciate in nonfiction,” she added.
Last fall, Danielle wrote an essay for Femsplain about online mourning. Her mother had died a few months before and she was working through what it looks like to grieve someone online.
My mother’s lingering online presence is the most painful part of accepting her passing. Behind a screen, I can still feel close to her. I scroll through her Facebook photos. I skim through her entire timeline from most recent to oldest posts. I find statuses accompanied by photos from my childhood. I browse through her tweets of Plexus ads. I Google her name. I replay her voicemails. I re-read her texts, emails and anything else she ever sent to me.
— Excerpt from “Grieving my mother in the digital age,” on Femsplain
The article provides an insightful look into how the digital era has changed the way we grieve. Danielle said everyone from friends to strangers praised her essay, and getting that kind of feedback was rewarding. She added that she is interested in writing more about grief in the future.
Turning personal emotions into writing can be extremely hard, but it’s one of the keys to a good personal essay.
In the end, Danielle said, “I’d rather have my work out there, ultimately, than not at all.”
She said that she feels more at ease when writing personal essays, although a piece she is very proud of — and that was challenging to write and publish — was about someone else.
“In South India, women empowerment groups fight for land rights” is a piece Danielle wrote last April. It is about a woman’s tribal activist, and Danielle said finally getting it published was very rewarding, because she knew the woman she was writing about wanted her story to be told.
“As a journalist, it’s incredibly important for me to vocalize silenced voices,” Danielle said. “My writing can be used as a platform to bring awareness towards an issue. I want to do more of that in the future.”
As an only child in an artistic household — her mother was a painter and her father a musician — Danielle said writing was always something of a hobby for her.
“In sixth grade, I set aside a notebook exclusively for song lyrics,” she said. “I wanted to be a musician when I was younger, but I found I was better with lyrics rather than performing.”
Despite an early affinity for and appreciation of the art of writing, Danielle didn’t develop a passion for it until later in life after studying literature in college, she said.
As an undergraduate, she wrote for various outlets, including the student newspaper and Mic, which at the time was still a start-up.
“After college graduation, I knew I had to start making a living, so I started my freelance writing career shortly after,” she said.
Freelancing is one of those careers that parents tend to shudder at because it doesn’t exactly come with loads of financial stability. Nonetheless, Danielle said that’s what she hopes to do, for the foreseeable future at least.
“That’s how I see myself growing,” she said. “Rather than doing the big internship route in a major metropolitan area, which is an expensive habit, I can write from my desk at home. I can pick and choose who I want to pitch to. I have a lot of freedom and flexibility, especially since I don’t have to give up my day job to pursue my passion.”
Danielle explained that her working-class background led to her holding down three jobs while completing an unpaid internship in college. And while that was a great experience, she said, “if I could’ve been doing this instead in exchange for experience, it would’ve been more accessible and less stressful.”
One of the best things about being a writer, Danielle said, is getting her name to the public.
“You can Google my name and stories will begin to appear,” she said. “Sometimes, people I haven’t talked to in a long time will reach out to me about something I published, complimenting my work. That’s incredibly rewarding.”
Her father, Bobby Corcione, said seeing his daughter’s name in print is thrilling.
“I’m totally ecstatic every time I read Danielle’s new publications both in print and online,” he said. “Danielle’s writing is well thought-out, addresses the subject matter, and has a unique style that keeps a reader’s interest,” he added.