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Friday, June 10, 2011

Blast from the Past, Take 4: An "Essay" That Didn't Sell

Oh boy. I cannot believe I'm going to post this piece--this is one of my earliest essays. It didn't sell, though I sent it out several dozen times. And here's the reason why: it's not an essay!

Sure, as a newbie freelancer, I thought it was an essay. It's not. It's more of a free-writing exercise or a journal entry recording my sugar obsession than an actual piece. (Don't worry, next up I'll post an essay that did sell--so you can compare the two.) In the meantime, my comments are in green:

A Sweet Secret

I have a confession to make: I’m not as virtuous as I appear. [Not a very compelling lead. And with an essay, you've got to work twice as hard to get your reader's attention.]

Sure, I run twenty miles a week and lift weights once regularly. I eat healthy and always try to get my five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I gave up red meat a long time ago and cook low-fat meals with beans, pasta and chicken. To my friends, I’m somewhat of a health freak, but watching what I eat and exercising helped me lose the fifty pounds I gained years ago.
I’m careful now because I know it’s easier to maintain weight than to lose it. But there’s one thing my friends don’t know about me…I’ve got a sweet tooth that won’t be denied. [Okay, this is actually an interesting idea--that I look healthy on the outside but I have a secret. But as you'll see, I don't really pursue it.]

When you’re born with a sweet tooth, it affects your whole life. You remember vacations in terms of desserts; you buy the kind of Halloween candy you like so you can share it with the trick-or-treaters; you know the cost per ounce of Fannie May turtles. Holidays take on a new significance—Valentine’s Day means conversation hearts, Halloween ushers in the little green and orange mallowcreme pumpkins, and everyone knows that the Cadbury bunny only comes out at Easter. [Again, not a bad idea here, but there has to be more than an essay than listing the candy/holiday connections.]

Of course not all candy stands the test of time. When I was seven, my absolute favorite food in the world was something that consisted of “Lik-M-Aid”, which was basically colored sugar and white “dipping sticks”, called “Lik-M-Stix”. You sucked on the stick, dipped it into the Lik-M-Aid, and then dipped it into your mouth. It would have been easier (but not as much fun) to just drain sugar packets into my mouth. After I grew weary of the time-intensive task of consuming Lik-M-Ade, I discovered Three Musketeers. Three Musketeers were great because they could be mashed between my hands (while still safely in the wrapper) until the bar was a soft, squishy paste. Then I’d tear off one end of the wrapper and squeeze the candy into my mouth—astronaut food! [Okay, so I liked these candies as a kid. So what?]

By the age of ten, I was allowed to ride my bike with a friend to the local K-Mart, where I discovered Whoppers, malted milk balls which were packaged in a carton. (To remind you how healthy they are.) The way to eat a malted milk ball was to bite in half and then suck on it until the malt dissolved and only the chocolate coating was left in your mouth. [Again, so what?]

And the movies meant one thing—Twizzlers. Our movie theaters had grown-up candy like Jordan Almonds and chocolate covered raisins. I may have flirted with Jujube’s occasionally, but I always came back to the strawberry licorice. Plus, if you bit both the ends of a Twizzler, it doubled as a straw for your soda. [And?]

In high school, my friends and I all loved M & Ms. M & Ms had it all over regular candy bars—they were neat and easy to slip into your mouth during class if you were so inclined. You could let the candy shell melt slowly away, savoring the chocolate inside, and no one would ever notice. It was considered quite scandalous to offer a boy you liked a green M & M (the rumor was that green ones made you, in the teen speak of the day, “horny”). [Cringing here...again, so what?]

As the seasons come and go, so do the candies. Just as mallowcreme pumpkins hit the stores in time for Halloween, Easter to me means one thing: Cadbury Creme Eggs. You either love them or you think they’re the most disgusting candy you’ve ever seen. An Egg is consists of a chocolate shell approximately the size of a small chicken egg, filled with white and yellow “Creme” (the yolk and white of the egg, naturally). The only way to eat an Egg it to bite the top of the egg off, eat it, and then dip your finger into the shell to savor the Creme. Last, you finish off the shell of the Egg. There is no better candy experience in the world. [Fifteen years later, I still agree with this statement...but again, so what? What is my point?]

After all, life is short. A little candy along the way just makes it a little sweeter. [Ugh. Horrible!]

Again, this is not an essay. This is just a list of candy I've enjoyed over the years, nothing more. That's why it didn't sell. Next up will be an essay that did.


  1. Kelly, this is too funny. Thanks for sharing. Many a time I've reviewed some of my old stuff and wanted to hide my face in embarrassment. There you are, meandering happily through candy memories and envisioning Family Circle sending you a thank you note for choosing them to send your essay to, with no idea you'd be cringing about it years later. Oh, the innocence! :)

  2. Thanks, Leigh--I cannot believe what I sent out early on. While the writing was technically fine (i.e. not rife with spelling or grammatical errors, etc), it just wasn't very good. But that goes back to the idea of practicing and that you can and will get better by writing more, whatever kind of writing you do. :)