Aesop's Essays By Ava Mackay-Smith

It might be slightly ironic to write an essay about writing essays. However, for me, writing a good essay three years ago was like unicycling while wearing a banana suit. One day, however, a magical event occurred that taught me how to write a reasonable essay and like it; this magical event was known as Honors English 10. I came into the sparkling land of Honors English 10 armed only with a five paragraph essay whose conclusion paragraph began with the words “In conclusion..”. I left Honors English 10 with a twelve-page thesis paper on John Steinbeck and East of Eden. This, dear reader, is how I did it.

As with all magical events, it appeared at first to be perfectly ordinary. Then, I walked into class on the first day of school and observed that my English teacher was, in fact, an ogre. He was a benevolent ogre, but an ogre nonetheless. For the reader’s future reference, when you encounter an imaginary animal or fantastical person, it is usually an indicator that a magical event is on its way. However, for an unsuspecting female tenth grade student, this was not immediately apparent. My new English teacher was over six feet, six inches tall; liked to wear plaid, brown shoes, and black pants; and had a beard. He was the coolest person I have ever met. Or, rather, the coolest ogre I have ever met.

This ogre did not believe in: Jane Eyre; teaching anything boring; and being solemn while teaching. This ogre did believe in: Emily Dickinson; jalapeños; and drinking five cups of coffee a day out of his unwashed mug for one hundred and eighty days straight. This may seem irrelevant, but if it wasn’t for the Ogre’s personality, I would never have learned how to write a quality essay. 

We started out writing easy essays. Armed with our magic wands (preferably Ticonderoga), spell books (which ranged from O Pioneers! to The Scarlet Letter), and our trusty ogre leader, we crossed over deserts of dry rhetoric, jungles of bountiful prose, and rivers of

poetry in every shape and form. As the thesis paper loomed over us, I could feel myself hanging on tightly to my five-paragraph essay, ready to harpoon the Ogre and walk out of this fairytale land. But the Ogre coaxed me back, every time I wrote something I didn’t like or couldn’t understand, and showed me how to make it better. I didn’t even notice as the thesis paper started to take shape.

  First I read a massive tome of a novel… then I wrote down a source of Steinbeck-related information on a notecard. Then another. And two more. Until I had fifteen sources that all related to East of Eden. I waved my wand until it had to be sharpened and wrote down one quote a day that was related to the novel. I started making connections on my own, and gradually I left the five-paragraph essay on the side of the yellow brick road, rusting in the rain of middle school memories, where it belonged.

Then one day, I read my index cards full of jumbled words and I realized that there was an idea in there, nestled somewhere between two notecards, waiting to be discovered. I found it on my own, and it felt like I really did have magical powers. The Ogre smiled from his desk and went back to grading incantations on his desk. I realized that I was already halfway up the thesis paper - what was the point of turning around now? I wrote a sentence, and I climbed up one more step to the top. Five pages were due after Christmas, and I had an idea. A real, genuine idea that I knew no-one had thought before. The Ogre had made me forget about what it was like at the bottom of the mountain of Thesis; I went for it. And I did it. The Ogre smiled into his beard as I turned in six pages after Christmas.

I finished it in April. I stood on the top of Mount Thesis and saw the deserts and jungles and rivers I had traversed across, and it felt like I had done it all by myself - which meant I could do it again. I trudged down Mount Thesis with an army of double-spaced pages behind me. As I waved goodbye while the Summertime train left the station, I knew I could come back to Mount Thesis whenever I liked — I had blazed a trail with my own two feet. Only now do I see where the Ogre had to make me write, kicking and screaming, trying to make me into a writer. I thank him for that. And that, dear reader, is how one embarks on a quest for Mount Thesis - and survives to tell the tale.