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Tinsel Town types now have a write place for write time

August 29, 2004|Michael T. Jarvis

Spend enough time putting words in other people's mouths or playing roles and the urge strikes to build a world, or at least an essay, around the word "me." Tapping the collective Hollywood impulse is, which twice a month posts essays from a list of contributors that's included actresses Kathy Najimy and Marcia Wallace and writers such as Jill Soloway of "Six Feet Under," Earl Hamner, creator of "The Waltons," and "Freaks and Geeks" creator Paul Feig.

The quotient of recognizable subjects is perhaps higher here than in other essay collections. A drama class memoir, for instance, revolves around a smudged and weepy Lucille Ball. Revelation frequently comes by way of auditions or brushes with fame: winning "The Gong Show," say, or appearing on "Sex and the City."

In the way of all personal recollections, there are parents (ill, aging). There is sex. And blessedly (see contributor credits that include "ex-Groundling" and "Kids in the Hall"), there is plenty of humor.

Author Hillary Carlip says she created Fresh Yarn to fill a void. "There are so many people expressing themselves through personal essays, it's becoming a genre," she says.

"There's a lot of spoken-word events in Los Angeles, and I was hearing stories from writers and producers and directors who express themselves but don't have a venue specifically for personal essays."

Fresh Yarn received over 1 million hits -- after it was selected as a Yahoo pick of the day -- but Carlip is not surprised. "So many people enjoy personal essays. The spate of reality television is not real -- it's all manufactured." The essay, she says, "gives a sense of what reality is."

As Carlip sees it, it's the personal essay's moment. "People are opening up with humor and emotion," she says. "It's the truth."

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