Personal Essay #4: Sierra Russell-McCollum

Laguna, CA

Sal and I woke up early, egger to get the day started. The sun rays that peeked through the curtains shined in my face. I squint my eyes and role over in bed, only to find Sal smiling at me. He mouths good morning to  me and I do the same, a smile spreads across my face matching his. We both stretch and get out of bed, we have a fun day ahead of us. It’s supposed to be almost 90 degrees, which is a nice change from the alaskan weather. Everyone in the house is still asleep, exhausted from the day before. When my feet touch the tile I welcome the cold that seeps into me. Staying in a house with no air conditioning is hard, especially when you are in California. I quickly learned to savor anything that is cold to the touch.

“Are you ready?' Sal looks over his shoulder, while he ties his shoes. I quickly shimmy my high waisted shorts on over my two piece, before I give him a thumbs up.

“Of course I’m ready. I’ve been waiting for you this whole time, weirdo.' I lean over and kiss him on the cheek, trying to be cool but failing miserably.

“Ya uh huh. Keep telling yourself that.' He playfully shoves me away but I’m too quick and slide away from his hands. “Let’s go,' he smiles a me.

We both quickly grab our things and head out the door. We are welcomed by his four dogs, tails wagging rapidly. We step over them and head towards the car. I take a moment while he loads the car to look around. The air was crystal clear today which was rare for Los Angeles. No smog making the sky look fuzzy. Not a single cloud in the sky, only the color of baby blue. I could smell the flowers, which had already been blooming even though it was winter. Everything was so beautiful. The small crowded houses, with their many different colors was pretty to look at. So different from where I grew up. You can hear the cars driving on the street over, traffic already turning into rush hour even though it’s nine in the morning.

“Let’s go babe.' Sal slides into the driver's seat turning the car on, AC blasting. I quickly slide in and buckle up.

“Hurry up, I want to go to the beach.' I whine at him.

“I’m going, chill out.' I pretend to act annoyed but my excitement gets the best of me. Sal smirks at my expression, he can read my face to easily. The beach has always been my happy place, the sand sticking to your body, the salt water smell, the beach hair, and the blazing sun is what makes me happy. The last time I went to a beach in California was two years ago, too long ago. The beaches in Oregon are beautiful too, but in a different way. The sand isn’t warm, the waves can be dangerous, the beaches aren’t groomed, and less crowded. Both types of beaches are beautiful in their own way.

“How long till we get there?' I turn to Sal and ask.

“About 40 minutes,' He looks over at me “don’t worry it’s worth the drive. I promise.'

I lean over and turn the music up, we both agreed earlier I was a throwback kind of day. And knowing Sal, being the overachiever he was, he had made a playlist at three in the morning. I don’t know how I didn’t notice him on his phone considering I was sprawled out across his body for the majority of the night. I turn the AC off and roll the window down welcoming the rush of air, my hair going every which way.

The free-way wasn’t too packed, especially the farther we went. My mind was completely at ease. I glance in the corner of my eye and look at Sal. His strong features were outlined in the sun. His golden skin glowing in the rays. It was like I was looking at something that came right from the movies.

“I know, I’m pretty handsome.' He gives me the look, I know I’ve been caught.

“I was actually thinking about how ugly you are and why I’m with you.' I raise an eyebrow at him, holding back my laughter.

“Stupid' he chuckles under his breath. Suddenly his cheerful look turns to confusion. I look at the road ahead and notice we are entering the Fast Track Freeway. “I thought I made sure th GPS avoided these highways.'

“Maybe they aren’t charging drivers today.' I scan the road and see very few drivers.

“They charge everyday babe. Don’t you guys have these freeways in Oregon?'

“Heck no, traffic never gets as bad as it does here.' I scrunch my face, the thought of paying to drive on a freeway foreign to me.

“Screw it. If I get a ticket I get a ticket.' He shrugs his shoulders, unbothered by the thought. He reaches for the radio and turns the music up. We both sing at the top of our lungs, sounding like dying cats. I look around at my surroundings and just over the houses roofs on the other side of the freeway I see the ocean. Excitement fills my chest and the biggest grin spreads across my face. We are here.

We take the next exit and make our way towards the ocean. A sign greets us “Welcome to Laguna Beach' I become restless, eager to put my feet in the sand.

“I just need to find parking, and that’s going to be an issue,' he scans the roads for street parking but cars are lined up bumper to bumper, “We may have to walk.'

“That’s okay babe, as long as we actually get to go on the beach.' I smile at him. I quickly go back to searching for a parking spot but after 10 long minutes we drive up the steep hill. We soon find a small area next to the curb and I see Sal scanning it, debating if he’ll fit.

“I think I can fit, what do you think?' He looks at me and I shrug my shoulders. “I’m just gonna park here then.' And sure enough we fit. He hop out of the car and grab the chairs, towels, and food. I look down the hill and pray that I don’t trip and fall down it. But the view beyond it is what motivates me to start walking. We quickly shuffle down the hill and reach the crosswalk, I’m already sweating from the heat from the sun shining on my face. I look at Sal and see him about to press the crossing button and I muster enough strength to sprint and beat him to it.

“You are an asshole.' He sticks his tongue out at me and I return the favor. “I can tell your excited.'

“Of course I’m excited,' The crosswalk signal turns green quickly, “quickly lets go!' I have jog cross the busy road, Sal jogging behind me. I hear him laughing at me, most likely because the kid in me is coming out  but I don’t care. We reach the entrance of the beach I see the stairs, all one thousand of them. And they are steeper than the hill I just walked down.

“You go in front in case I fall I will have a cushion.' I push Sal in front of me, smiling trying to act innocent.

“Fine, ya big baby.' He begins walking down like it’s nothing, while I have my hand on the rail. I watch every step I make, some of them shouldn’t be considered steps. The concrete falling apart over the years of people trudging up and down them daily. The greenery surround the long staircase was beautiful. I was completely hidden in the shade thanks to the thick leaves and trees. About halfway I stop and look up. The view was gorgeous. The water was a clear blue, boaters boating around the shore, people laying out, actual dolphins swimming, and the sun shining above it all.

“Wow' is all I could muster to say. It was all breathtaking. I’ve never imagined seeing a beach like this in person. A few steps below Sal turns around smiling at me “C’mon. It gets better I promise.'

I reposition the chair over my shoulder and finish the walk down. And he was right. It was better. The moment I stepped on the beach the true beauty hit me. I’ve only dreamt of beaches like this. I step down from the last step and slide my birkenstock sandals off. The warmth welcomes me. I look around and notice the rugged cliffs that surround the beach and the caves on the other side. The way the sun hit the dark texture of the cliffs was breathtaking. Every  jagged point was highlighted, sparkling form the rays of the sun. The houses hanging of the cliffs edges was also mesmerizing and scary beautiful. My smile continued to grow the entire time I took in this view. Sal was watching from a few feet away taking in my reaction. His signature side smirk plastered on his face. I look at him, fascination sparkling in my eyes.

“So what do you think?' He leans against the wooden railing next to the stairs.

“It’s Incredible.'


13 thoughts on “Personal Essay #4: Sierra Russell-McCollum

  1. Andrew Lange


    I very much enjoyed reading your piece. Your present-tense writing style makes me feel as though I am presently there, experiencing it with you; I can imagine the sensory stimuli as though I am there myself living the experiences you describe; the crowded California freeways, the first glimpse of the ocean.

    I also found your writing generally very relatable. I myself grew up in Atascadero, California, not too far from the coast, so your description of the drive to the coast is very much something I can relate to. Your descriptions of the chilly, dry mornings where the high is supposed to easily push the nineties bring back childhood memories for me; the sound of the morning rush-hour traffic while the day is still yet young are things that shaped me as a person.

    One thing I might suggest including is a little bit more of an introduction. Your story jumps in rather suddenly, as though it were more of a flash essay than a personal essay. With that being said, however, I can also understand your motive may have been an attempt to immediately plunge the reader into the narrative, whereas a more detailed introduction might have been a spoiler. That said, I’m a little curious about some of the details; is Sal your significant other? Did you just move to the Los Angeles area? Are you just visiting? Does this story have some other significance in your life besides a peek into a particular day in the life of you? Is this your first visit to the area with Sal, your significant other? Or is this more of a typical day in your life there?

    That said, I still very much enjoyed reading your story. I liked your writing style and to be honest it brought back many memories for me, having grown up about 4 hours north of you. I miss living there, with the easy access to the nice beaches, the warm weather, the bright mornings even in the dead of winter. I also grew up in Alaska simultaneously, as I had parents who had long since broken up, and I can relate to the winter weather getting old quickly; I grew up in Southeast Alaska, where something like 300/365 days per year experience measurable precipitation, so the sun and warmth is a welcome change for me from the rain of Southeast or the infamous minus forty of Fairbanks winters; I’m a fifth generation California native who ended up in Alaska and loves it here but can’t wait to move back.

  2. Aubri Stogsdill

    Hi Sierra,

    I enjoyed reading your essay. It is a sweet story and there is a lot of description of your environment, but I feel like you missed a big part of the assignment, which was to convey something deeper than just telling a story. There wasn’t any sort of depth to your story… It was just a retelling of an event from your past. This was an anecdotal retelling… not a narrative.

    Another thing is that as I read I was sort of waiting for something really exciting to happen… but it never did. Not to say that your times with your boyfriend aren’t special and sweet for the two of you, but this wasn’t something that I was able to relate to. Something my video professor always asks when we are coming up with a story is WHY would people care about the topic? I think if you’d gone into more detail about your internal conversation and feelings in regards to this event, it would have made your essay deeper and more impactful.

    I think that a big component of this style of writing is conveying a sort of deeper message to the readers. Though it was a sweet and pleasant essay, I don’t feel like there was much complexity or depth to it. I didn’t walk away with a better understanding of you, Sal, or the world…

    Here are a few other technical suggestions…

    “The sun rays that peeked through the curtains shined in my face. I squint my eyes and role over in bed, only to find Sal smiling at me.” Here you have two different tenses going on… You should either change it to present tense or past tense, not both.

    “Egger” should be spelled ‘eager’

    ‘alaskan’ should be capitalized.

    “The air was crystal clear today which was rare” This sentence is a bit confusing to me. You said the air ‘was’, and then you say today… There are different tenses.

    “he can read my face to easily.” ‘To’ should be changed to ‘too’.

    “The last time I went to a beach in California was two years ago, too long ago.” This sentence would be greatly improved if you put the word ‘which’ right after the word ‘ago’.

    “The sand isn’t warm, the waves can be dangerous, the beaches aren’t groomed, and less crowded” This sentence would be much better if you added ‘they are’ after the last and.

    “I quickly go back to searching for a parking spot but after 10 long minutes we drive up the steep hill.” This sentence feels incomplete… Like we are just getting somewhere, and then it ends.

    “He hop out of the car” This sentence doesn’t make sense.

    “boaters boating” This is not descriptive at all and is really redundant… Maybe use a different description.

    ““Wow” is all I could muster to say.” This also doesn’t make sense.. maybe saying, “muster up,” would be better.
    “I step down from the last step” Try using another word rather than repeating the word ‘step’.

    Hope this helps! (:

  3. Monica Gallagher

    This was a great personal story about the beach and I can relate completely. I laughed out loud several times reading it, which is great! I appreciated the dialogue and humor throughout, it made the story go by quickly. As I was reading though, there was several little hiccups in the grammar that caught me off guard. It sort of stopped the story in a way, so I figured I would mention them in the air of our response assignment. There were a couple of small ones that were in there, like using was instead of were and I instead of it, farther instead of further. The bigger ones were, “He hop out of car” and “I have jog cross the busy road”. There was another part that wasn’t a typo or grammatical error but was in the dialogue that seemed to not be super realistic. When he says, “You’re an asshole”, then “I can tell your excited”, it doesn’t seem to fit. First, it should be you’re and then second, I think the second portion of the dialogue is too formal compared to the first part. I would imagine him saying something like “You’re an asshole, Jesus you’re excited!” or something along those lines.
    Enough of the nitpicky, I really did like the story and it was easy to read. I liked the depiction of your relationship showing the softer side and then also the grittier humorous side. I kept wanting to hear more detail about the road there. You always kind of imagine these California roadways as sort of epic and it just wasn’t in the story. It’s quite possible that this specific road wasn’t epic in that way, you mention the toll road, which doesn’t sound fun. I got a clear picture of the beach and the hill when you finally got there and walked out. The end of the story was satisfying and gratifying. Gave me the feeling of the beach and that last step out onto the sand.
    I was hoping for more of a climatic event somewhere in the story. There’s only so much climax you can have on the beach I guess. I didn’t want you to have some sort of shark experience or anything like that, but it would’ve been cool if you and your beau got in a fight or something. Not really, but a little something in there to make for an event. I realize the beach in itself is an event and that was the deal in this story and to a certain extent it was exciting. I think the best part about this was the humor. It is rare for me to laugh out loud when reading and I did it, I think three times. So, good on you there. I would want to read more of your stuff, especially if it has dialogue in it. I loved the dialogue.
    Another suggestion to fill the space would be to think of a significant event that was dialogued and build your story around that. Just going off your strong suit and then building up from there.

  4. Naimy Schommer

    Sierra, this is such a sweet story. I really liked how you wrote in the present tense–it gave the story so much more life. It makes the interactions between the narrator and Sal much more real and believable, which is good for a narrative. The bit before the characters begin the drive is adorable.

    The dialogue is believable–everyone knows a couple who jokes around and is totally comfortable with each other like the narrator of this story and Sal. The interaction of the character fits that mold and is very believable to that mold. Their dialogue is cute and serves to give dimension to their characters and the subsequently the narrative as a whole. The characters are the highlight of this story. Very cute, very relatable.

    I think this piece could use more creative description. I’ve never been to Laguna Beach, actually I’ve never been to a beach outside of Alaska, so I couldn’t picture any of the scenery you were interacting with. I think this piece, since it revolves so heavily around the beautiful drive and amazing beach scenery, needs to feature description more heavily. This also creates a more broad potential audience that will be receptive to your narrative.

    This piece, while cute and endearing, doesn’t seem to accomplish much in the way of a moral or point. I, as a reader, am not left with a sense of agency after reading this, nor am I significantly enlightened on any particular subject. I think this story would serve as an excellent anecdote or intro to a specific point, but this narrative seems to be lacking an underlying structure that would prop it up against a specific stance, view, or point. There aren’t significant trials the narrator and Sal have to overcome, so as a reader, I’m not particularly invested in your journey to the beach. I mean sure, I want you to get there because that sounds fun, but there’s no real reason other than “it’s worth the drive”. This story is a little like the movie Titanic pre-iceberg. The audience is just kind of waiting for something to happen while being entertained with sub-story narrative. This is a really good lead-in, but it just needs a little more “meat and potatoes” or core structure.

  5. Aundrea Pierce


    I can relate to your story, “Staying in a house with no air conditioning is hard, especially when you are in California.” This is my current situation so that I can vouch for you. Everyone thinks the weather is too nice in California to have A/C. I think, the majority of the year may be nice, but there are those agonizing months where I need A/C, please! I liked the dialogue in your story because it sounded very modern and realistic. Your tone was playful and exciting. I do feel the story was lacking struggle/drama which reminded me of our Lamott reading; drama keeps the plot rolling.

    “When my feet touch the tile I welcome the cold that seeps into me.” Very well worded, I could feel this.

    “We both quickly grab our things and head out the door. We are welcomed by his four dogs, tails wagging rapidly. We step over them and head towards the car.” I got the gist of this scene, but I did have a question, were the dogs out in the yard, or outside?

    “I could smell the flowers, which had already been blooming even though it was winter.” I love how flowers are kind of a year-round thing here in California. Your scene setting made me want to smell the flowers. Maybe add some description or metaphors so the reader can smell it! For example, “I could smell the velvety sweetness from the blooming flowers, even though it was winter. The light aroma reminded me of baby powder.” I’m sure you could do better that was just off the top of my head! You could do the same with the smell of the beach too if you want to hook the reader in with more senses. I could see the picture of the scenes you were describing; I just wanted to “feel” it more.

    There were a few spelling errors “He hop out of the car and grab the chairs” I had re-read this, but I’m sure someone already pointed this out.

    “Every jagged point was highlighted, sparkling form the rays of the sun. The houses hanging of the cliffs edges was also mesmerizing and scary beautiful.” I enjoyed this imagery! Yes, the houses on the hills are scary beautiful. I’m still not sure how people can sleep in peace in them at night.

    Overall your account was cute and real. I was reminded of the “puppy love” stage that me and my high school sweetheart went through. I hope you and Sal find your way back to this beach one day! You should try the beaches in Hawaii one day; I’d love to hear your comparison.

  6. Jessica Honebein

    Sierra! I absolutely loved how easy this essay was to follow, yet it still contained a lot of imagery so I could dive into the story myself. I think the most compelling aspect about this essay is all the dialogue. I think that the dialogue added a lot of personality to both characters (yourself and your boyfriend). I did like the simplicity of the essay as well, it was a normal story but with a twist of your own. I think that my favorite thing about the essay was being able to image your thoughts and body language throughout the whole essay. Being able to do that helps enhance the readers experience, and take what you want them to take from the essay.

    The only thing that I would work on would be the story line, I do like that it was simple and easy to follow along with. However I did not leave with a sense of purpose. I think I left the story with a lot of knowledge about both the characters, but not so much with a moral of the story. In the end of the essay I almost wanted to continue the story and say that the female character (you) decides that you wanted to move to California because the beauty and anticipation of the beach was more than you could have hoped for. I guess I was almost looking for a big event, or a life changing decision to be brought up. However, I do not think you should lose the simplicity of the essay. I think that this is a good writing style for you, and myself as the reader could follow along easily. The last thing I would say to help enhance your writing would be to add in just a few more “juicy” words/ descriptions here and there. This will help the reader picture what you really want them to.

    This essay took me to the emotions of a first love, when everything is gitty and anticipation of a new relationship is there. I think that I was able to experience the emotions with you as I read the essay because of the dialogue. It also took me to my thoughts about the beach and sun and how I also long to be laying on the beach. It brought back memories of when I was little and our family would go to texas and the anticipation of the drive from Colorado to Texas (although it was a little longer) and the feeling of happiness when we finally made it there and to the beaches. It reminded me of the conversations that we had on the drive down and the songs that we always listened to. We always listened to “When the Sun Goes Down” by Kenny Chesney to get into the mood for the beach and a little vacation. Throughout your dialogue and description of characters it intertwined me into the story. I think that your essay was relatable and easy to follow.

  7. Michelle Cordova


    I found your personal essay to be extremely relatable as I grew up just an hour away from the beautiful beaches of Florida. Your obvious excitement brought back many of my own childhood memories as I recall the butterflies fluttering in my stomach as my mother would exclaim, “we’re here!” I am 30 now, and the beach is still my happy place! The warm sand and crystal blue skies of Florida seem to almost match the ones you describe witnessing in California, along with the bumper to bumper traffic that makes parking a nightmare!

    My main critique of your otherwise wonderful essay would be to add more depth, something with meaning that pulls the reader in. Although you told a personal story well, I felt that it lacked significance, which is what I believed the assignment requested. Instead of simply retelling one specific event, it would have been nice to read of something that dug a little deeper into who you are. There were also a few spots that I feel you missed when proofreading the paper, such as using the word “we” instead of “he” and “at” instead of “a.” Although small mistakes, avoiding them would help the paper flow a little better.

    I do feel that your descriptions were good throughout, but could have used a bit of tweaking, such as in explaining the boaters, water, and people laying out- it just laid a little flat for me. Not everyone has been to the beach or driven on a toll road, etc., which is a main area within your story, so a little more description could have gone a long way in helping others to get a better picture of what you saw. I also wish I knew a little more about your situation. Are you and Sal in a long-distance relationship and you only have a day to spend together before you return home or have you just moved there? You two are clearly comfortable with each other, but I felt that there could have been a little more backstory. I almost felt as if something was missing from the story, like the 40-minute drive wasn’t going to end well or that there was going to be a twist that you were building up to, but it just never happened.

    Overall, I think the story flowed well, had charm, and was easy to relate to as I’m sure we have all felt some sort of excitement that brings out the kid in us, whether it is a relationship, activity, or anticipated vacation. Again, I think that adding in a deep meaning would have given the essay a bit more personality while pulling the reader in, not leaving us with questions or the sense that something was missing.

  8. Leah Rego

    That was a very cute and relatable story, though it is lacking a sense of completion. I’d like to see some of where that day goes. There are some minor spelling and grammar mistakes, but not any serious problem with the mechanics of the piece. It does come off a little flippant, and lacking in emotional depth, but you have a strong start and with a little reworking or the sentences for clarity you have the start of a really sweet story.

  9. Corbin Knapp

    Your essay was a great story, but I was confused at the beginning. Why were you at Laguna, California? Did you live there or were you just there for a vacation? If you wanted to expand or revise your piece maybe you should include how you got there, and why you were there with Sal. Describe the trip there if it was a vacation. It would be a good addition to the essay and would add the obstacles that a long drive or flying so often introduces into a trip.

    I enjoyed your piece, but it seemed like a flash essay. If you had chosen a time from your past that you had to overcome obstacles (like the time when people criticized your writing) then it would be more of a personal essay instead of an anecdote. It was a good story, but it might not cover all the things a personal essay includes. It was an engaging read and your use of dialogue was a great addition, but you didn’t have obstacles that you had to overcome. It was more of a pleasant outing than a life changing, earth shattering event. The one obstacle that you did face in your story was traffic, but you didn’t seem to have to struggle to overcome it. (Actually I don’t know, maybe you did, it depends on the size of the traffic jam).

    Besides those few things to change you described a great day with your significant other Sal that sounds like a really fond memory for you. The way you write made me feel like I was experiencing your day. I enjoy the seaside too, but I enjoy sitting at the edge of sea-cliffs and just watching the waves crash against the rock beneath my feet as the smell of saltwater and seaweed fills my nose instead of pristine beaches. Okay, got a little carried away there, but your piece brings up memories of the ocean. That is the mark of a good writer.

    I have never been to California, so your descriptions of the beach gives me a view into what a warm – climate beach is like. I have only been to the coast of Maine, and that is a very different experience than the pristine beaches of California. The details that you include bring the piece to life and it is a great tool for a writer to have in their toolbox. I try to put descriptions in my pieces to, but I have yet to correctly get the image of a place in my mind successfully down on paper.

    Overall I enjoyed your piece. It was slightly more of an anecdotal personal essay than a narrative personal essay. You had two elements of the personal narrative essay down. You had memorable structure and your writing helped forge a deeper level of understanding for the reader, but you didn’t have a struggle to involve the reader in. There was no obstacles for you to eventually overcome, and your closing could be more definitive. I hope I wasn’t too critical, enjoy your weekend!

  10. Caitlyn Williams

    Hi Sierra,

    I liked your essay about the trip to Laguna Beach; I’ve never been there, but it sounds beautiful! I also liked the details that you used; I felt the joy of childhood throughout the drive to the beach. I saw only a few minor grammar mistakes, but overall the flow of your essay was good. I felt the anticipation of going to the beach, I wondered what the adventure lead to after you got there and said it was incredible. I liked your descriptions, and it felt like I was reading a part of a novel. (This is a compliment). I felt like I was in the middle of a romantic novel. It interested me because I read those often. You captured a part of your life, and the only thing I was missing was a climax, or a bigger picture; moral of the story. Something that was deeper than the adventure. You had one but it wasn’t as climatic as I thought was going to be. I struggled with my climax too, and my descriptions weren’t as captivating as I wanted. You did a great job on your essay and I hope there were many more eager mornings with Sal.
    I liked the dialogue you used throughout your essay! Dialogue seems to really capture a person’s personality, and the moment as well. The ending of your story captivated me. Your vivid descriptions made a nice visualization while I read. I loved your description overall, and your use of dialogue was smart. Overall, I enjoyed reading your essay!

  11. Ben Knapp

    I enjoyed reading your essay. You describe what seemed to be a very happy experience for you, and you allow the reader to share in some of that happiness as he reads the essay. Your work has a blissful, upbeat feel to it that makes reading pleasant and gratifying.

    One thing I really enjoyed about your essay was the dialogue. Rather than describe the characters to the reader, you allow the reader to experience their personalities firsthand. This provides a much better understanding of the characters than a written explanation ever could. This is one of the best qualities of your writing for this essay.

    The dialogue you included also meant that your essay had excellent flow. By including what seems to be pretty much everything that was said at the actual occasion, your paragraphs flow together naturally. This is an excellent method for keeping your essay from becoming jumpy or abrupt.

    From reading your essay, it is clear that you and Sal are very close. However, it might have been better if you had included more background on him. Who is he? What does he mean to you? Talking more about these details might have added to your essay, as long as you could find a way of including them without interrupting the flow of your essay.

    I would have also appreciated some information on your location. Although it is not strictly necessary, some information on where you were when this took place could also have been nice. Were you on vacation? Visiting? Was that where you lived? Answering these questions might have added to your essay.

    Some more description of the setting you were in might have also contributed to the story. The staircase seems to come out of nowhere after you suddenly start talking about it. Where does this stairway lead? How does it fit into the surrounding landscape? More description on the scenery and location might have positively contributed to your essay.

    However, these changes, although adding detail, might have detracted from the overall feel of your essay if you had included them. The large use of dialogue made your essay special, and enjoyable. If you had talked more about the setting and background, your story might have lost some of its magic. If you do take my advice into account in future writing, perhaps a happy medium would be valuable.

    Your ending ties the whole essay together nicely. Since a large portion of your essay was dialogue, it makes sense that your essay ended with dialogue. The reader feels satisfied and is somehow content by your ending; there are no feelings of unfufillment despite the fact that you end your essay in the middle of the story. If you had continued on the story after that point it might have become difficult to keep your writing from becoming dull or redundant.

    Your essay was an altogether pleasant read. Some additional detail may have added to it, but it also might have distracted from the overall theme of your essay. The dialogue you used in your essay might have been undermined by excessive detail that isn’t 100% necessary for it to make sense. Either way, your essay was fun and entertaining to read.

  12. Katherine Whelchel

    Hey Sierra!
    First of all, I miss you and our awesome speech class! I hope you are enjoying California with Sal; from your story, it seems like you are. 
    I really enjoyed reading your piece. It was so light and fresh, I almost felt the wind in my hair as I read about the drive, or the sand in my feet when you stepped onto the beach. You have a gift for explaining your physical surroundings in a way that doesn’t bog the reader down, but still clearly sets your scene. I especially enjoyed how you have shown your love for Sal through the interactions between you both. Sharing your sly smile, or raised eyebrows all adds to paint a wonderful picture.
    I have never been to a beach like the one you described, so this was a great piece to read; I felt like I was given a taste of California! The sun, sand, water, and human activity all made your story come alive. Whenever I finally visit, I am sure that everything will be just like you described.
    The one thing I would have liked to read was your internal thoughts and emotions. You wrote a bit about it, but I wanted to know how Sal was making you feel, deep within you. Was your heart pounding relentlessly? Did you feel a swelling within your chest when you glimpsed the ocean? While you show how you were feeling by describing the physical, I wanted to see into your heart through internal expression.
    Other than a few grammatical errors, your story was great, I just feel that more depth would be achieved by an inward focus. You have such a beautiful heart, and I want to know what is going on inside of it.
    Great job though, at sowing a golden beauty into your story! I could see you and Sal messing around in my head as I read. It is so delightful when the reader is transported into the story and taken for a ride. I feel that this is hard to do, but you have a gift in this area!
    I cannot wait to read more of what you write and dive into your stories and experiences. I hope that everything I shared here made sense and was helpful! Keep writing. 

  13. Cassidy Kramer

    I really enjoyed reading your story. I do not have a boyfriend yet, or have never in the past, so reading the relationship that you and Sal have make me feel the same way romantic movies make me feel, which makes me wish that I was in a relationship. The descriptive details you used, and the way you presented your story made me feel like I was there with you. I have also been to California, and I am from Alaska, so when you said, “I quickly learned to savor anything that is cold to the touch.” I could relate to that making your story that much better.
    You did although have a few grammatical errors along with things that seemed like typos. Sadly, this did distract me from the beauty of the story, but I was able to quickly cling onto it again with your descriptive language. I liked the dialogue, however, it also drew me away from your own feelings and thoughts. Specifically, the part where you might have to get a ticket for driving on the Fast Track Freeway, I thought was unnecessary at first, but when I thought of it more I realized that it was a nice addition. It kind of signifies that every perfect day has downsides to it, but you are willing not to let it bother you because of what you are so excited for. It also shows how Sal is wanting to give you a perfect day, so he would rather pay the ticket than putting a burden on your day. With or without the fast track freeway part, your story is great.
    I think the last part of the story is my favorite part. You give such descriptive detail that draws the reader into your story and makes them feel as if they are there. I love the beauty of California, and the heat is great in contrast to the cold Alaskan air. Your ending was also nice. It is a nice way to end I think because the reader already knows you are going to have a great time at the beach, or else you would write that you didn’t. The story building up to when you are finally at the beach is enough to satisfy the reader, since you are giving them so much information.
    I think that if you added less dialogue, it would make the story even more personal. With adding that much dialogue, I feel that it kind of makes it more about you and Sal, instead of just you. I am kind of on the fence about whether you should have added less dialogue or if you shouldn’t have, because it also creates a relationship and another reason why it is a perfect day for you.
    Overall, I really enjoyed reading your story, because it made me feel like I was there. Since the beginning, it grabbed me and did not let me go. I was desperately hoping that nothing was going to happen that would ruin your day, and I was pleased to find out that nothing did.

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