Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Apostrophe

Author’s Note

I began the essay “The Babysitter” in July 2022 at the Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, a workshop that bases pedagogy on exhaustive writing. The workshop’s leader often used “chunking” to demonstrate good writing, that is, intentionally dividing up a multipage essay with specific headings. My godmother/former babysitter and my mother’s conflict lasted twenty-seven or so years, but both women were and are equally important in my whole life for different reasons. As I began writing, I thought about every year from the past and the contributions of these two women to my growth. I have a mind like a filing cabinet, each drawer containing a year of my life. I simply pulled out another drawer when moving from one year to another.

In English we don’t write the way we speak, as any English-language learner will tell you, so I incorporated letters and dialogue for variation of tone and style. Otherwise, my own prejudice against passive voice renders that specific syntax absent from this essay, except for one or two instances. Writing in first person, I sometimes utilized apostrophe, writing directly to the women featured in this essay. I mapped out what I would write in each year/chunk from beginning to the end. The essay originally started with my parents’ marriage in 1976, but this beginning was ultimately superfluous, as the narrative truly begins when Sarah enters our lives.


ANDREW BORNEMAN is a teacher and college counselor at an independent school in Baltimore. His short story “The Storm” won the Henry-York Steiner first-place award for short fiction at Grinnell College in 2003. He will begin his MFA in fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2023. Find him on Twitter @AndrewBorneman1 and Instagram @andrewborneman.