Personal Essay #2: Caitlyn Williams

It was late August, a comfortable, cool breeze blew in the wind. We were on the Kuskokwim River kneeboarding without a care in the world. I was 12, and nothing else mattered but my puppy Precious, and the adventures I took with my family and friends. I loved summer, I always have. This summer felt different; I knew it would be the best summer ever! It was a fresh start, and the fresh breeze that blew through my curly, black hair seemed to prove it. ‘This has to be the best summer ever!’ I thought as I looked off into the sunset. It was bad for my eyes, but I didn’t know any better. Now I have terrible vision, but that doesn’t matter compared to the beautiful sun’s rays and the cloudless sky that follows.  

Summers have always been so important to me. It’s a time to connect with family and friends, and harvest fish and berries for the winter. It’s time taking, but it’s necessary. I personally love it, and that’s the thing I remember most; going out in the wilderness, or to a cabin for a few days with my family. The focus was gathering, and that’s what we did. It was fun, and therapeutic at the same time. It was so calm sometimes that I couldn’t help but run around and act a fool with my cousins. Little did I know that it wouldn’t happen much longer.

I started travelling to my dad’s for summer in high school. I then moved there year round. Everything I knew, behind me, as I flew away from the small village I called my home for the last 14 years of my life. Although I was moving, I knew this place would always be ‘home.’ Akiak, Alaska. Population: 370. Vast lands, chilling nights, and northern lights. I knew I’d miss it.

The landscape was totally different, I loved the greenery Southeast Alaska brought. It was rainy a lot, but I managed. I soon became accustomed to the weather, I loved the rain. I loved everything except the fact that I was going to graduate in a few years. I feared what the future had to bring because I didn’t know what was going to happen.

 My new focus was making money, and it wasn’t nearly as fun as going out with my family back home. Don’t get me wrong, I went outing with my dad’s side of the family, but it was too late, I was already preoccupied with my job. It sounds selfish, but my drive for more financial stability rooted from supporting my family, and myself. I guess I grew up too fast. It’s a different time in history, and I often found myself longing to go back to a time when nothing else mattered but family, food, and adventures. No money, no stupid $300 bills to pay, and NO JOB. The only job that mattered would be to take care of my little nieces and nephews. I longed to be 12 again, a girl without a care in the world. Maybe, all along, I just longed to be a child again. Living in this day in age is so complicated. Summer signifies freedom and fun, and maybe I was just longing for a forever summer.    

I didn’t know one person that hates summer. People may associate bad memories with summer, but not enough to hate the whole season. But then again, I didn’t know a lot of people. Growing up in a small village has has made me an introvert. Knowing only about 400 people growing up has made me enjoy the quiet remoteness of Alaska. Even in Ketchikan, there was a serene remoteness that I can remember. I remember waking early, maybe 630 and going on our front deck to bask in the fresh cold sunlight. I’d made this a ritual, and I did it whenever I could. Of course I didn’t wake up everyday at 630, but I tried to make it a point to relax on our front porch for a few minutes every day.

Some days, it would be almost absolutely quiet besides cars driving a few blocks away. I lived at the top of a steep hill, and I loved the view, and the privacy. This was a luxury for me in high school, even trudging up the hill everyday wasn’t too bad. I made it into a positive by reassuring myself that it would transform my legs by the end of the year. It sure did, and it got easier and easier when I made the decision to run up and down that hill in the early hours of daylight. I have trouble with consistency, and I didn’t make it a routine. Sometimes my father would see me walking up the hill, and he’d chuckle and make some funny remarks that I can’t remember now. Maybe I should have had some index cards with me because some of his remarks were intellectual and funny. I wish I could remember now, some of the things he’d said while I was huffing and puffing up that hill with a bright pink face.

I’d gotten used to my new family, and my new school. I loved my dad’s easy going personality. He was about 64 when I moved in. I’d imagined how different he was back when he was a young buck. My older half siblings told me he was a lot more strict, but he’d never really grounded me when I was there. We’d talk, and I enjoyed his company. My stepmom was the one that had the rules in the bag. She’d give me chores to do almost everyday. Especially on weekends. I wasn’t a big fan, but I got them done as fast and as best I could so I could enjoy the rest of my day with my friends. She might have thought I favored my father over her, but she’s the one that pushed me to achieve more.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school. The stress I held on my sleeve was growing steadfast. I knew I had to figure out what I was going to do. Most of my friends took gap years, but my stepmom wouldn’t allow it. I applied to Fort Lewis College, and got accepted! I was an excited nervous wreck; kind of like those puppies that finally found a home with nice people. Enjoying it, but having underlying fear of how things would go. We ended up taking a long trip to Canada, and I knew I wouldn’t make it to Colorado on time. I took a gap year and got a job. I was a store clerk for the winter season, and a waitress in the summer. I had a good gig going, but I wasn’t satisfied. I quit my clerk job, and took the waitressing job full time. It was so much fun! I loved going to work, and although it was hard work, meeting people from all over the world made it worth it.

When it boils down to it, jobs are essential, and I can’t go back in time. I’m 19, working a full time job as a teacher’s aide, while taking classes. I’ve moved back to Akiak since then, and I’m enjoying it so far. I’ve got the best of both worlds, and I’ve turned out just fine. Now it’s just me, my family, my job and my classes. Both sides of my family are proud of me, and I couldn’t be happier. I even have a new puppy, her name is Bella. Soon I’ll have the freedom and adventure I crave. In just a few months, I’ll be hopping on a boat, kneeboarding and swimming with my family, just like old times. I can’t wait to re-live a time almost forgotten; a time when I was 12, without a care in the world. That’s what summer is, a time without much care, and without much clothing either! I cannot wait until summer break! My summer will definitely include gathering with my family, and finding a summer job. Jobs aren’t so bad after all; might as well get money while I can!  

14 thoughts on “Personal Essay #2: Caitlyn Williams

  1. Andrew Lange


    I very much enjoyed reading your essay. To be honest, I don’t have all that much to add.

    I found almost every aspect of your descriptions relatable to my own life experiences. Having this under my belt, I was able to really see through your writing and relate to your descriptions of both adulting while wishing you could go back to being a carefree child, as well as your descriptions of having split parents and the areas in which you grew up. I always find written descriptions of things I’m already familiar with interesting despite being already very familiar with them; the imagery they evoke supplements my personal understandings and familiarity with an idea or place.

    I grew up in Atascadero, California, but would come visit my father in the summers as a child in Sitka, Alaska; my parents were estranged. When I was 10, I did end up moving in with my dad full time, so I can very much relate to your descriptions of finally getting to know your dad on a more personal basis later in life than children usually would. I also found my father to be comparatively easygoing compared to my mother, however I feel as though he grew much stricter as I grew older. (granted, I’m sure I was simply being an obnoxious teenager by then as well).

    Finally, I lost my mother to stage four lung cancer and advanced COPD in 2013. By then, I was in Alaska full time. I was living in Port Alexander, AK, outside Sitka, population approximately 50. I was a graduating class of one, unless you count a friend who graduated a semester early. By then, of course teenage angst had taken hold, as it does for anyone in that phase of life. I missed my late mother terribly, didn’t always get along with my dad, and wanted to go elsewhere in the world. I was at that phase of life where I realized how much time had already passed.

    You give some vivid imagery of Ketchikan, Alaska. Having spent a fair portion of my life in Sitka, a similar Southeast town, I find your descriptions extremely relatable. My childhood home had a 37%-grade driveway, and the off-grid, rural house I initially moved into with my dad had what we affectionately dubbed “Hernia Hill”, an incredibly steep, narrow, slippery 36″-wide boardwalk that anything and everything that reached the premises had to traverse, from every stick of firewood to every Jerry can of fuel for the balky 3000-watt Honda gasoline generator that kept the lights on to every food item we ever ate there. I can still remember some of my dad’s witty comments watching me huff and puff with a heavily laden wheelbarrow or hand truck full of supplies. Ironically, the actual street name was, I kid you not, “Easy Street”.

    Finally, I will say that I can very much relate to your feelings of wishing you were a child again, without a care in the world. They say adulting sucks, it’s true! I wish I could go back to no money, but no need for money, no bills, no job, and no adult responsibilities often, as a 20-year-old broke college student presently taking 17 credit-hours.

  2. Aubri Stogsdill

    Hi, Caitlyn, I thought your story was nice. Your family is obviously very important to you. I like the part about walking up that hill and how you turned a challenge into something positive. I also totally agree with your sentiments about the pain of having to work. Personally, I’ve had to work full time every summer since junior year of high school- not too fun.

    While I did think your story was pleasant, most of your wording was very plain and simple. There wasn’t lots of description that caused me, the reader, to understand what these situations felt like. That being said, I didn’t end this story feeling like I had a better understanding of you as a person, which is actually the purpose of this type of writing. After reading this, you still seemed pretty flat. While your life story is clearly not a boring one, I think that your wording didn’t convince me that it was a story worth reading. Adding more descriptive words would help to develop your essay in this area.

    Another thing that I struggled with was I didn’t feel like there was much of a storyline. While I see that you went to live with your dad, and there were good things about that, the way that you worded it really didn’t pull me in. I found myself a bit confused as to what I was supposed to be gathering from your essay. A lot of the thoughts in your essay seemed like they could use more development. For example, you talked about wanting to be a child again. Had you discussed that in more depth you could have easily pulled me in! Or talked more about how exactly your stepmom’s rules and strictness helped you develop as a person.

    One thing I did like is that you ended your story by referring to what you talked about at the beginning of the story. But It would have been nice to have more of a description of this. I would have enjoyed it more if there was a clear end- an issue that you more deeply struggled through, overcame, and others could relate to. Obviously, it’s not fun to go to work, and everybody knows that, but why was this something that was difficult for you to overcome?

    Here are a few suggestions for wording:

    This part was a bit redundant: I knew it would be the best summer ever! It was a fresh start, and the fresh breeze that blew through my curly, black hair seemed to prove it. ‘This has to be the best summer ever!’ Using different wording rather than saying “best summer ever” twice would make these sentence sound better.

    Also, this sentence is confusing “It’s time taking, but it’s necessary.” I’m not sure if you just missed a word here. Perhaps saying, “It takes a lot of time” would make it sound better.

    This sentence was really lovely “Population: 370. Vast lands, chilling nights, and northern lights.”

    This sentence is confusing “Don’t get me wrong, I went outing with my dad’s side of the family, but it was too late, I was already preoccupied with my job”

    This sentence is also confusing- “my drive for more financial stability rooted from supporting my family, and myself.” Adding the word ‘was’ after ‘stability’ and changing ‘from’ to ‘in’ would make this sentence flow.

    I hope my notes are helpful!

  3. Jessica Honebein

    Caitlyn! I think that your personal essay was very relatable. Throughout your writing you help us to shadow you feelings and opinions essentially on growing up. I did like how you started with the picture of being with family in the water, and then wrapped it up again with being with your family in the water. I found that your essay was easy to read, and follow along with as events happened in your life. I was able to picture most of the events that happened. I think that your writing does bring out how much you care about family. It also helps to see that the jobs you have, you take seriously and handle them with pride. I like how you explained why you decided to waitress and how taking it on full time made you feel.

    Although I did enjoy reading your essay I think that if you added a couple more “juicy” words in it would help to paint a clearer picture in the readers head. For example when you are talking about your stepmom being the one who dishes out the rules, you could add in her description or attitude to help the readers picture themselves in your situation. I think that adding in better word choice could also help catch the reader’s attention in the beginning a little more. The only other thing I would say is to maybe define what you want the reader to take away from your narrative. I think that you wanted to point out the importance of your family, but then also the responsibility of keeping a job. Then in the end putting them both together, and balancing your life, is what you feel should be strived for even if you want to just go back to childhood. There was also a couple sentences where wording was a little confusing.

    I think that the aspect that related to me the most was the opinions about a summer job. I know that I dread having to work every summer and not being able to just enjoy my break. However I do sympathize with you that money is always a nice thing to have. I think that throughout your essay I saw myself thinking about events that have happened in my life similar to yours. I would have to say that I also had no idea where I was going when I started college. I do think that being so young and having a lot of responsibility and change in your life does help you grow up, and grow up fast. Along with that I think it also depends on where and who you grew up with. I also grew up in a small rainy town of Seward, so not a super huge difference. I also sympathize with you on how living/ being raised in a small town can make you an introvert. It sounds like throughout your story, your jobs, and your schooling you have become more outgoing and felt a need to take control. I really did like reading your essay, it helped me dip into someone else’s life for a little bit and experience how they grew up.

  4. Monica Gallagher

    This was a great descriptive narration of your life thus far. I like the details of the summer and the cold and how it ties back in to the end of your story when you return. I wish it had a main topic and climatic event. As I was reading, I kept on waiting for something big to happen that was going to be the height of the story. In your second paragraph where you said, “Little did I know it wouldn’t happen much longer”, I thought that something was going to happen there. And it did, I mean you ended up leaving shortly after that, but it wasn’t set up to be a climatic event. There were multiple spots in the story that I thought would bring that moment; the move, the acceptance to college, the road trip to Canada, even going back home. Each of these times, I was kind of looking or waiting for this thing to happen that never really happened.
    I can totally appreciate the full circle reference to going back home and I thought you did a good job of depicting that nostalgia and all the “little” things that go with that. But my overall experience was a mild read with a semi let down of no “big” events happening. It read like more of a narration versus a personal essay. If I were to give any recommendation, it would be to hone in on one of those experiences and dial it in to a specific experience in that one thing that changed you. Something that shaped you, and I get it, the entire experience probably did. But, reading it I didn’t know how, because it was sort of broad. My biggest curiosity at this point after reading would be your road trip to Canada that seemingly caused the no start at Fort Lewis college. I think it would be a cool story to dial in on that and write in detail and even some dialogue what all happened there and the thought process of not going to Fort Lewis.
    It’s obviously your life and sounds like a pretty cool one by the way, but I guess I would just suggest more detail into a specific event that happened that shaped you. Besides focusing on the road trip, you could just put more detail into Akiak, the beginning experience, the middle in leaving, and going back, but adding massive detail to those little stories. I did like how you brought it back at the end to describe the knee boarding as you did in the beginning. It was a pretty good opening and closure to Akiak, I just wish the middle was more concentrated and tied into Akiak as well. Maybe, that’s just how life goes though, sometimes the middle is chaotic and there’s not a whole lot to tie back in. I disagree in that, there’s got to be an “ah ha”, a “what the heck was that?”, a “that’s really going to hurt” type moment that could serve you in your story.

  5. Naimy Schommer

    I totally relate, Caitlyn. Summer’s are a time for rest and recreation with those you love most!

    I think you give excellent descriptions of the activities you do in the summer, but I think this piece could use some more descriptive imagery. What makes Akiak different from other villages? I’ve never been to an Alaskan village, and only have a few general images to go on, so I couldn’t really image the world you grew up in. What was your role in the community? What would change once you left? Expand on the role of your family within the community and in your own life. You say that growing up in a small village has made you an introvert–how? How did you find that helped/hindered you in your summer jobs?

    I think this narrative speaks to the longing most of us feel for childhood. It’s poignant and real and fresh in our minds and this is a great example of that. You have such a clear vision of that one summer knee-boarding excursion.

    I really like how you opened the story with the detail about your puppy Precious, and you ended it with the bit about getting a new puppy Bella. That was a creative way to tie the story up and show how you’ve come full circle but still enjoy the same things as you did when you were young. You could even capitalize on this likeness further by describing the things you do with the puppy and your family.

    I like your description of the hill and the privacy it serves to protect. Your description of your dad made me smile and think of my own dad. If possible, I think that’s another area you could expand into. Basically, I think your family and what makes them “home” is a really good area to explore more of with this essay.

  6. Aundrea Pierce


    Your story made me want to go back when I was 12 years old “without a care in the world!” The sequence of events in the story was easy to follow and had a smooth flow. As a reader from a more urban background, I never understood why people enjoyed living among what I referred to as “the abyss” (the cold, small, rural areas). Your writing helped me to understand what people loved about it, for example,
    “Some days, it would be almost absolutely quiet besides cars driving a few blocks away. I lived at the top of a steep hill, and I loved the view, and the privacy. This was a luxury for me in high school, even trudging up the hill everyday wasn’t too bad.”
    I would have appreciated this kind of serene environment too after the majority of chaotic days in high school. I can feel why you would appreciate this “luxury.”
    Throughout the beginning of your essay, you continuously mention your trip was fun and exciting, and I was convinced, but I would have liked you to describe a more vivid picture maybe with metaphors or descriptive words. You showed a good example near the end of the story, “I was an excited nervous wreck; kind of like those puppies that finally found a home with nice people.” You would have hooked me in more with something like this at the beginning. This felt more like I was reading a journal entry that needed some glitter and sparkles, or maybe booby traps. What I’m trying to relay kind of goes back to my earlier point on painting more vivid pictures, so the reader can imagine and be there with you. For an example, I’ll refer to the same piece I quoted,
    “Some days, it would be almost absolutely quiet besides cars driving a few blocks away.” I was hooked in here, and I could hear the sound of the cars driving in the distance.
    “I lived at the top of a steep hill, and I loved the view, and the privacy.” Even though you didn’t word it, I pictured a steep hill covered in a soft white sheet. Was this correct? I wanted to know more about the view you loved.
    Thanks for sharing a piece of your cherished memories! I’m a reader who loves “pizzaz” and imagery, so that’s the only thing that lacked for me.

  7. Michelle Cordova

    Hi Caitlyn,

    Thank you for opening up about your past that was both adventurous and demanding in many ways. You made it clear just how important your family is to you, and I can truly appreciate that.

    However, I do have a few suggestions that I hope helps to guide your future writing, as I am familiar with its difficulties. First, it is helpful for the writer and reader, alike, if the piece follows a clear storyline. For example, if you choose to write about your past, pick one moment that really defines you, such as the move to go live with your dad, and make it the focal point. You can add in different characters and struggles along the way, but in more of a story-telling fashion, and less of a casual phone conversation you’re having with a friend. I tend to find myself struggling with this as well, and my husband consistently reminds me that if I write how I talk, my story tends to be less powerful.

    Also, proofreading is crucial for any sort of writing. There were a few parts, such as writing has twice, that threw me off and forced me to reread the sentence, throwing off my concentration. Punctuation is also important and the use of commas in correct spaces helps the reader focus more on the story and less on guessing your clear intent. You used the words “personally” and “ a lot” which take away from the story and tend to dull it down a bit.

    Lastly, the use of descriptive words really allows the reader to feel like they’re in your shoes. Instead of saying that “Summers have always been so important to me,” play with your words and choose vocabulary that draws us in. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic, but replacing “so important” with something more convincing, I feel, would give your story a little more depth. Simply choosing a wider range of adjectives to replace fresh, which is used back to back in the first paragraph, would be beneficial as well.

    I am from Alabama, and only lived in Alaska for a short while. Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your life, it would have been great to have gotten a better, more vivid, picture of the cabin you stayed in with your family or the fields in which you picked berries with your cousins as these are things I have a difficult time envisioning on my own. If I had written a piece about a cottage on the beach in Panama City, Florida, a place you may have never been, would you have clearly seen what I saw had I not been more in depth?

    I hope my feedback is helpful and straightforward, and that you continue to grow in your writing! I enjoyed getting to know a little bit about you and hope that you continue to enjoy your summers with family, breathing in the fresh air every chance you get!

  8. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    I found myself really enjoying your narrative. When you talked about kneeboarding in August without a care in the world, it brought me back to my childhood summers spent on the river. I understood the fear of graduating and going on with your life because I graduated last spring and still have no idea what I’m doing with my future. Unlike you, my summers were spent in southern Oregon, in the blazing desert. I like how you talk about the importance of your summers, that’s another thing I can relate too. There is no better feeling than spending your days in the summer with your family while having fun.

    One thing I found myself wanting more from your writing is being more descriptive. I grew up in Oregon my entire life, so I have no idea what you were really telling me about the scenery. Adding descriptive words and taking a minute to paint a clear colorful picture for the reader will help take your writing to another level. I very much enjoyed reading your piece but I felt like it was simple, and I know you could make it better by adding descriptive words. The only time I felt like I saw what you saw was in the beginning when you were kneeboarding. The middle and ending could have used more. I want to see and feel what you saw and felt. It helps me as the reader connect to your story on another level.

    Another small issue I got from the reading was that I never really had an idea on what the main purpose was. Don’t get me wrong I loved the story, it would just make it better to have the purpose more present so the reader could identify it better. It may just be me having that problem. Other than those things your writing was very clear and I loved it.

    There wasn’t a point when I wanted to stop reading, it was all very interesting to me. I loved when you began talking about your stepmother. I myself have a stepfather so I know how it feels to live with a stepparent. Also, I really liked when you talked about chores. I thought my mother was the only person to make me do millions of chores every day, no matter what day it was. Another thing I liked about your piece was that I could tell your family is very important to you and you stress this throughout your entire story. I am a huge family person so I connected with that.

    Your ending would have to be my top favorite part of this story. I loved how you connected it to the beginning. I felt like the story was coming to an end and I wasn’t being dropped off suddenly. I think overall your writing style is really good, all you should do like I said before, is be more descriptive. I can’t wait to read more of your stories, I feel like you and I have a lot of similarities when it comes to personality wise, and that makes me excited to read more of your works.

  9. Leah Rego

    Caitlin, all in all, your tales mechanics are quite good. The only thing I can see as needing improvement is the focus of your tale, I somewhat get that there is a story in there but I’m not sure exactly what the tale is. You went from your love of summers, to moving to live with your dad, that worked fine, but that switched the focus of the story on your life there, but only in a vague way about the season itself. So I’m not sure if the story was about the change in how you spent your summers, the change in locations and how that affected your life, the change in what the season was like in the two places, or the change in how getting older changes how you are able to spend your summers.

  10. Corbin Knapp

    Hi Caitlyn!

    I really enjoyed your piece, you are a great writer! When I was twelve I thought that summers would never end, that I would do whatever wanted for as long as I lived. I agree that summers are a time for family and friends, and I have spent many a summer afternoon goofing off with my friends or just taking a walk through the woods with my family. One of the parts that I found confusing however is the part where you describe leaving Akiak, Alaska to go live with your Dad year round. Where does he live in Southeast Alaska? Maybe you should tell readers that he lives in Ketchikan when you first write about moving to somewhere else. I can tell why you would miss Akiak, it sounds like a wonderful place to live!

    I definitely think about money more now that I’m older. I worry if I will have enough to get through college with minimal debt, and about what I am going to do once I actually graduate. I sometimes feel like it would be simpler if I could go back to a time where I didn’t have to “Adult.” At the same time being older has it’s advantages, such as having a job that you enjoy. I don’t know anybody that hates summer either, and I agree that even if they had a bad experience during the season they still enjoyed the rest of it.

    I live on a hill as well, and our mailbox is half a mile down the road. There are two steep hills I have to go over every time my parents send me and my brother down to get the mail. After a while I turned this into a daily exercise routine (although I rarely do it in the winter). I’m never consistent with my running either, and I will sometimes take a shortcut through the woods next to my house. Some things my father says are worthy of being written down too, but I forget them before I can write them down! I agree that index cards would be handy!

    Okay let’s get into the technical stuff. I thought it was a well written and engaging essay. I can relate to most of the experiences you wrote about, and your sentences flow smoothly together. A couple of things you could do to make your writing even better, is to be even more descriptive. Try bringing the places and people you love into more vivid detail using more colorful descriptions. You could go into greater detail about why you loved Akiak, and how you view that as “home”.

    If you wanted to expand your piece even more you can write about how you grew to love Ketchikan, what details made both places stand out in your memory, and adding more descriptions of your family and friends as well. Besides those few things your essay was perfect, and was enjoyable and touching read. Keep up the good work!

  11. Ben Knapp

    Your essay was enjoyable to read and had many good aspects. The pace you retain throughout the piece keeps things moving, and interesting. Despite opportunities to make your essay gloomy or dismal, you maintained a cheerful tone. Overall, I think it is a great essay!

    As I said before, I enjoyed the overall cheerful tone throughout the essay. Even when describing things like bills and your job, you somehow came off as cheerful and optimistic. If you hadn’t maintained this tone, your essay might have become gloomy and depressing. I am glad you decided to go the way you did with your writing for this piece.

    I liked it when you talked about how you would get up early to look at the sunrise. This was a nice touch, and made things seem more “real” for me. Reading your description, I can almost feel the cool morning air and the gentle wind. This also helps with your theme of your blissful childhood.

    I also enjoyed your beginning. Starting off with an experience you had during one of the summers you enjoyed so much, and letting the reader see how distant the future seemed to you was a nice touch. This allows the reader to feel, rather than see, what life was like for you. It also helps in the transition and flow of your essay, which makes reading more enjoyable.

    One thing I would have liked to see is more detail about your summers. You do provide some detail, enough to let the reader know how much you enjoyed them and the part they played in your life, but I would like to see you write more about what you did during your summers, and why they were so special to you. Maybe you could talk about some of the adventures you had with your family, or what your daily routine was during summer.

    You could have also gone into more detail about your various jobs, and why or why not you enjoyed them. The part where you talked about your job as a waitress, and the different people you met sounded especially interesting. It might have been good to talk about specific people you talked to and why you enjoyed talking to them.

    Another plus about your essay is the good flow of your writing. You lead each paragraph to the next, which keeps things from getting irregular or jumpy. This helps the reader appreciate what you are actually saying, rather than getting caught up by sudden jumps in your writing.

    That said, there was a place in your essay where things did get a little jumpy. The jump between your last paragraph and the one before it was a little sudden. It might have been better to include a sentence or two to help the two paragraph transition together more smoothly. However, the rest of your writing is smooth and transitions well.

    Other than pretty much only one sudden jump, your essay was an enjoyable read. I liked the overall smooth flow of your essay, as well as the cheerful tone throughout. Despite a couple places where I would have liked more detail, the essay was an enjoyable read.

  12. Katherine Whelchel

    Hi Caitlyn!
    I enjoyed reading your piece and hearing all about your life! I can only imagine how hard it would be to move from a small village to a bigger town. I am so glad that you ended up adjusting and finding joy in both of the places you have lived!
    Personally, I have lived in the same place for my entire life; I haven’t even moved houses. While I am very grateful for this, I feel that moving brings a certain maturity. It can be hard to relocate and make your home in a new and strange place, but I imagine that you end up wiser and stronger from the experience. When I eventually have to move, I am looking forward to experiencing the changes so many people have already gone through. Though it will be hard, I hope that I will have as much success as you! 
    I do have a few tips for you. When reading through your piece, it felt like I was reading one of your diary entries; I got the gist of your life, but there wasn’t much depth or personal detail. I would have liked to understand what you were feeling and going through internally from your outward experiences and struggles. When writing a piece like this, it often helps to put yourself back into the place you are describing and trying to remember exactly what you were feeling, thinking, and doing. This then allows you to express your internal processes clearly.
    The substance of your piece had great potential, especially the part about you wishing to be a child! I just really wanted to know what was going on inside of you. I feel like you have so much to share and express; I wanted to feel like I was diving into your mind and soaking up every detail and every thought. Never doubt that you have something passionate and encouraging to share.
    I have also been struggling with this “diving into the mind” writing, and I had to go through my paper over and over to achieve it. What I learned was that it helps to write the bare bones of what I am trying to say, and then going back through and adding much more description. Basically, I like to think of weird and unique ways to say what I am feeling. Readers are drawn in by the strange wording that accurately explains the emotion.
    I have often thought “say it like you are explaining it to an alien”. This opens up my mind to different forms of expression and leads to a story, fiction or non-fiction, which is thick with intriguing moments that give a glimpse into my heart. I hope that these tips from what I have learned are clear and helpful!
    Overall, I really did enjoy the lighthearted vibe from your story and the small glimpse into your life that was given. Keep writing! I look forward to reading more of what you create.

  13. Mekayla

    Hi, Caitlyn! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this story! It’s always nice to get the chance to learn about others experiences. It’s a really good way to get new perspective on different cultures and ideals, and it sounds like your childhood was very different from mine. I spent most of my childhood in a small city outside of Portland, Oregon and didn’t get much of the Alaskan experience until much later. Even the time I have spent in Alaskan wilderness doesn’t seem to compare to the depth of yours.
    I really liked how you talked about your family, especially you step-mother. I always had a hard time getting along with my step-dad, and I think it’s really cool and mature of your to recognize some of the aggravating things she might’ve done were because she genuinely cared about you and your future. It’s really refreshing to meet people who value family so much. I also understand and relate to you having to start working at such a young age to help out your family. It really shows how strong and caring you are as a person.
    Although I really did enjoy reading your personal essay, I didn’t feel like there was very much direction with it. You seemed to go in a couple different directions with this piece. I think that it might’ve been helpful to delve into one of your points a little further, like working, or family, or your rural Alaskan experience, and really make that the focus. Another thing that could really improve this piece was maybe to the story the way you did but add a little extra information that could really tie all of your key components together.
    It’s apparent that you’re a really good writer, and you seem really excited about furthering your education, which is super exciting. I’m curious as to what you’re studying! Are you interested in a writing career. I suggest considering writing more about your personal experience with nature and specifically, Alaskan wilderness. It sounds like you have a really unique experience compared to most Americans, and that you had a real connection with the earth and your family because of this. You should really think about sharing your experiences coming from a small Alaskan village! How did your home and nature shape you as a person? What do you value the most from your childhood? What were the worst parts of this lifestyle? I think that this would have been a great direction to take this personal essay, and your writing has really made me curious of this lifestyle.

  14. Cassidy Kramer

    Once I read your story I realized that I do relate to it a lot! I am from Kotzebue, Alaska, which is big in comparison to Aniak considering we have about 3,500 people, but it is still a small rural village. At about age 6, my family moved down to Eagle River which was a big experience for me. Thankfully, I was younger so adjusting was a lot easier. At age 8 we moved back to Kotzebue, at age 10 we moved down to palmer, and at age 12 we moved back to Kotzebue! It was crazy for me. I would have just enough time to make close friends and adjust to the seasons that the new place had for us, and then we would move. Thankfully, for my middle and high school years, we stayed in Kotzebue. I have always considered Kotzebue to be my home, but I liked experiencing new things and people that every new place had to offer.
    I liked reading your story. Your introduction drew me in as I pictured and related to the days of having summer fun without a care in the world. However, once I got to the last two sentences of the first paragraph I was kind of thrown off. By reading the first paragraph, I know that you have a lot of great descriptive words in you, and I wish you used those throughout the whole story.
    I also felt that you jumped from ideas too quickly. As a reader, I want to hear about how picking berries and participating in cultural traditions with your family makes you feel. Once I got to the third paragraph, you drew me in again. The last three sentences of that paragraph, especially the part “Akiak, Alaska. Population: 370. Vast lands, chilling nights, and northern lights. I knew I’d miss it.” I absolutely loved. I also loved the beginning of the fourth paragraph that introduces Southeast Alaska. However, I did wish that you gave us the location of where you did go every summer earlier. I think this would be better because until you told me that it was Ketchikan, a part of my mind was distracted with “where is she now?”. I am easily drawn in as a reader, so I was again drawn in with the last phrase of the fifth paragraph “I was just longing for a forever summer.”. I liked the way you included your dad making funny remarks. I also think that my dad is hilarious and I wish I had a pencil and paper with me when he makes an intellectual remark. However, again, I wish you lingered on this more. To engage the reader more, I think you should constantly (but not annoyingly) update them on time, place, and your own feelings, since it is a personal essay and not an autobiography.
    Here are a few questions I think would inform the reader more:
    Why did you have to move away from Aniak?
    How did the situation that caused the move make you feel?
    How far were you from Durango?
    Was your job in Colorado, or did you go back to Alaska to work?
    How did you feel when you moved back to Aniak?
    Was it unfamiliar to you, or was it like you never left?
    Thank you for sharing your story! I thought it was very relatable to me.

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