Cover Photo: A photo of an outdoor exercise class, shot form above. A group of people stand on a grassy rectangle and perform a coordinated move, surrounded by a perimeter of chairs.
Photograph by Richard Leeming/Unsplash

Drafting a Personal Essay Is Like Stumbling Through a Dance

You can study all you want, but it’s only in the act of doing that you learn what’s right and what isn’t.

The first Zumba class I ever took was at Miami University’s newly remodeled rec center, shortly after arriving for my freshman year. I’d been drawn to the school’s beautiful campus and academic programs but didn’t realize that the Oxford, Ohio, university also had a reputation as “J. Crew U”—filled with beautiful, preppy students. At first I laughed at the stereotype; then I walked into the dance studio and encountered an assembly of women who looked like they’d all been backup dancers for music videos.





Okay,but I am not a lumbering wildebeest when I dance. I have moves that even Manny Jacinto wouldn’t sneeze at.


Lorraine is a journalist and fiction writer. Previously a staff writer for Smithsonian Magazine, she covers history, archaeology, evolution, and the weird world. She has received fellowships from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Lorraine's first narrative nonfiction book, The Last Voyageurs, (Pegasus Books/April 2016) was a finalist for the Chicago Book of the Year award. Her fiction has appeared in The Massachusetts Review and Literary Laundry. She's currently at work on two novels about friendship and belonging.