"Becoming a Great Essayist"

If you have a clever anecdote, an interesting memory, a new way to explain how something works, or an opinion on a social or political issue, then you have an essay in you. Discover the keys to unlocking your potential in essay writing with "Becoming a Great Essayist."

These 24 illuminating lectures explore numerous genres or types of essays, challenge you with stimulating writing prompts, and provide insights into how to get to know yourself like never before so that you may write honest, compelling, and great essays that people will read....  [Professor Cognard-Black] teaches you that the versatility and expressiveness of the essay make it an ideal medium for crafting stories and drawing perspectives out of even the most reluctant writers.

— Advertisement in New York Times Review of Books


I write. I cook. I travel. I read. I mother. I teach. I edit. I collaborate. Walt Whitman once wrote that we humans contains multitudes, and I see my own life's work to expand the known while seeking the new. Food is an ideal metaphor for what I mean: a homemade cake is both comfort and challenge, whereas finishing my first tarte tatin made my fingers tingle, my toes curl. When I spend myself with heat and energy, I am teacher, feminist, writer, editor. When I seek stillness and beauty, I am reader and cook. When I am curious, I travel.  And when I wish to connect—as E. M. Forster said, “Only connect”—I am mother, spouse, friend, and collaborator. Welcome to my site.

I write. I cook. I travel. I read. I mother. I teach. I edit. I collaborate. Walt Whitman once wrote that we humans contain multitudes, and I see my own life's work to expand the known while seeking the new. Food is an ideal metaphor for what I mean: a homemade cake is both comfort and challenge, whereas finishing my first tarte tatin made my fingers tingle, my toes curl. When I spend myself with heat and energy, I am teacher, feminist, writer, editor. When I seek stillness and beauty, I am reader and cook. When I am curious, I travel.  And when I wish to connect—as E. M. Forster said, “Only connect”—I am mother, spouse, friend, and collaborator. Welcome to my site.


From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines

Winner of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

AVAILABLE FROM MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Edited by Joyce Dyer, Jennifer Cognard-Black, and Elizabeth MacLeod Walls

“The toothsome essays found in From Curlers to Chainsaws...discover relentlessly revved and ready answers in the existential engineering of our everyday appliances and devices. These are works of stunning effort and raw oomph. These writers ratchet and roll, calculate and calibrate. They enter elegantly the number of ways nothing goes into the infinite.”

— Michael Martone, author of Winesburg, Indiana

“This is a book full of mechanized pleasures and frustrations unto torture, but more important, a book of women’s voices so clear and diverse and funny and heartbreakingly individual that you hurry from one to the next, even as you wish to linger longer with all. A smart and useful and wise anthology....”

— Bill Roorbach, author of Life among Giants

Learn more...

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

AVAILABLE FROM NYU PRESS

Edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite, with a Foreword by Marion Nestle

"Books That Cook is more than simply another anthology; it’s a living text to be taken into the kitchen and spattered with sauces and gravy. In short, it’s meant to cook."

— John S. Sledge, Virginia Quarterly Review

"A buffet of poems, stories, essays and recipes.... Food lovers and cookbook collectors will savor this literary stew."

— Kirkus Reviews

Whether a five-star chef or beginning home cook, any gourmand knows that recipes are far more than a set of instructions on how to make a dish. They are culture-keepers as well as culture-makers, both recording memories and fostering new ones. 

Organized like a cookbook, Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal is a collection of American literature written on the theme of food: from an invocation to a final toast, from starters to desserts. Learn more...


Upcoming Events

Reading for From Curlers to ChainsawsHiram College. Hiram, Ohio. 29 September 2016.

Reading for From Curlers to Chainsaws. St. Mary’s College of Maryland. St. Mary's City, MD. 27 October 2016.

Visiting Writer: “Recipe Recollections and Edible Essays.” Iowa Writers' House. University of Iowa, Iowa City. A series of linked food writing workshops, March 2017.

See all Past Events →