Each one of these essays that I have read have touched me personally. (For that I would like to thank all of the former students for sharing their work with us.)
When choosing which of the 26 previewed essays I would read in full, I naturally gravitated to the topics to which I felt I could most relate. Whether it was a simple phrase spoken in eight seconds or a full minute of bearing testimony and making invitation in Spanish, something always shone through their words, and I wanted to hear more of what they had to say.
I found these essays to be well-written -- perhaps not to the same standard or style as one might expect of an English major, but the essays were heartfelt and easy enough to follow. I tend to be optimistic of the things that I read, and can glean useful knowledge even from writings that I do not like, because of style or topic, or perhaps writings that I do not connect as well with. Some of these posts that I read turned out not to be about experiences that I have similarly experienced, and some of them turned out to be not as easy to relate to as I would have thought. All the same, though, I felt like I was hearing the genuine voices of real people who had felt that their words and their stories were important enough to share. In some essays, these people chose to be vulnerable, in cases like the essay "Hooked;" or sometimes dredged up past pains, like in "To Live with Gusto." And in one of my favourites, "La Última Pieza del Rompecabezas," the author spoke openly and comfortably of experiences that were sacred to her.
Perhaps I go into literary criticism with a different lens than most, because when I read I keep finding what I am looking for: things to enjoy, things to learn from, and things to emulate and apply. And because of that, the principle that I have seen most of all, when reading these essays, is that even writing expertise is not the most important aspect of writing; the sincerity of the message and the effect that message has on me is by far more important than how well -- or impressively -- I think a composition is written. That, above all else, is what I hope to convey in my own writing in the future.
As the author Ted Sturgeon once said, "It doesn't matter what you write; what you believe will show through."