GREENSBORO, NC—Creative nonfiction aims to tell the truth. But historical accuracy alone isn’t enough to create a compelling narrative: the stories must be worth telling, and then told with an authentic, irresistible voice.
Nonfiction writers will have a chance to hone these vital elements of the craft at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Spring Conference, held April 18 in the MHRA Building at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Eric G. Wilson, a professor of English at Wake Forest University and author of three works of creative nonfiction, will lead the Creative Nonfiction Master Class, “Creating Presence.”
The Creative Nonfiction Master Class will meet twice during the conference: once during Workshop Session I (in the morning) and again for Workshop Session II (in the afternoon). The course description is as follows:
Without a strong voice, prose—no matter how stylistically felicitous—feels generic, institutional, and bloodless. Animated with an engaging persona, the same words spring into an essay: idiosyncratic, imaginative, vibrant. But while essential for powerful creative nonfiction, voice is notoriously difficult to define. Sure, we say it’s the personality of the writer, the unique presence, the controlling consciousness, the point of view, the constructed “I” behind the “eye,” and so on. These traditional definitions, however, are almost as vague as the term they are meant to clarify. In this workshop, we will do our best to understand voice conceptually and practically. We will discuss how important writers have understood voice as well as how it works in selected essays (including those submitted for this workshop). We will also complete exercises designed to strengthen your voice. You should come away from the sessions with strategies for creating a more captivating verbal presence.
In addition, Marianne Gingher, author of Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, will lead a workshop titled “Stories Worth Telling.”
We know what they are. They keep happening to us. If we live long enough, our personal histories pile up the drama. How do we make sense of all the stories we’ve lived? Which of them demand to be told, and why? How do we make personal experience make sense to others in such a way that readers connect and identify? This is a workshop in the “personal” narrative or “writing from life.” Participants should bring a “time line” of their lives, documenting dates and a “headline” summary of the five or six most significant events/turning points of their lives. We will discuss techniques for making memoir writing come alive and include a brief in-class writing exercise with feedback. Two personal narratives that workshop participants might want to read before they attend the class are “The Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard and “The Lamb Roast” by Rosemary Hamilton. Both were published in the New Yorker and should be accessible online.
Writer and musician Tom Maxwell, formerly of the band The Squirrel Nut Zippers, will lead an afternoon workshop titled “Narrative Truth vs. Historical Truth.”
Memoir writing is, by needs, the art of navigating a strange terrain. How does one turn real people into characters? How does a messy, non-linear story get hammered into a narrative arc? What gives one the right, ultimately, to do this? Let’s discuss the manifold issues of objective truth, characterization, and emotional authenticity.
Registration for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2015 Spring Conference is now open.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.