This week I'm taking a creative non-fiction class with author Nancy Peacock at Meredith College. I've learned so much, beginning with the fact that I totally misunderstood what creative non-fiction was. I thought that it meant taking liberties with the truth to write a story. Being creative with the facts. Not so. As one participant in the class said, "It's writing the truth creatively." (I paraphrase.) I've learned that the essay, or memoir, has to have the same elements as a good story.
Okay. Some of you seasoned writers may be saying, "DUH!" but I'm a relative newbie to the art of writing!
I've almost always written fiction. Many of my stories have lots of truth embedded in the story, but I guess I thought that by fictionalizing the characters, changing a few names, etc., I would be freer to explore my (or others') stories.
But today, I took the idea of a story that I wrote a few years back and used it in response to a prompt to write about something we carried. Nancy read from one of my favorite books, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien to get us thinking. She and I had, coincidentally, both given the book out for World Book Night!
So I wrote this story as honestly as I could. I believe the essay that emerged has it all over the short story that preceded it, and I intend to move forward with it and put the old story in a file drawer.
For an hour after lunch, we do what Nancy calls "independent study." Writing on demand and reading it out to people you've only known a short while is demanding and somewhat exhausting. Add that to the fact that on Friday, my father would have turned ninety, should have turned ninety except for that day when he fell down the stairs (you can read my fictionalized version of that day here.) So yesterday my brain was very tired and instead of writing during that hour, I took my camera around the beautiful Meredith campus. I was walking down the sidewalk and looked over and saw the origami crane in a leaf, pictured above. It seemed to represent the workshop and the cosmic discoveries I've been making there.
PS: There are still a couple of spaces in the Bookbinding class. Let me know if you're interested.