Philip Gerard is the author of nine books of fiction and nonfiction, including Down the Wild Cape Fear (2013) and The Patron Saint of Dreams, the winner of 2012 Gold Medal for Essay/Creative Nonfiction from the Independent Publisher. He teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Gerard will lead the Creative Nonfiction Master Class at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference. One of the hardest things for a nonfiction writer to do is to write a detailed, dramatic, factual scene of an event that actually happened, but that he or she was not present to witness. In this workshop, participants will address practical tools of the craft that can be applied to creating such vivid scenes—incorporating a method Gerard calls “triangulation” that uses corroborating, disparate sources to stage a moment of drama acted out by real people in a real place, while remaining loyal to the truthfulness of events. This workshop will look at how this technique can apply also to memoir, to scenes in which we as authors participated, bringing them to a heightened level of suspense and emotional engagement for the reader. In the end, the practical application of craft can lead to an artistic result.
What was your favorite book as a child?
It was and remains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
If you weren’t a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
I'd be on Willie Nelson's bus playing side-man.
What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wished they had?
Be active and tuned in to your publisher—selling the book is the beginning, not the end, of the process.
Any memorable rejections?
A publisher once wrote of a novel: "I loved this book. It's the book I would want to get under the Christmas tree and would buy copies of for all my friends. Unfortunately, it's not right for us."
Hemingway wrote standing up; Truman Capote wrote lying down. What posture do you write in?
Sitting in my writing study.
The Cape Fear Coast is a hotbed for the film industry. In your opinion, what has been the best book-to-screen adaptation?
Deliverance—but it wasn't made here.The director of photography managed to capture the poetry of the country as Dickey wrote it.
What was the worst?
The Prince of Tides: they left out the Prince of Tides.
Why do you feel it’s important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Writing is solitary. It' s nice to get some encouragement from fellow travelers.
Do you have pet peeves as a reader? As a writer?
Bad punctuation, sloppy word choice, figurative language that seems contrived.
Are you scheduled in the time you set aside to write, or is your writing time more flexible than that?
You have to write like you practice a musical instrument—every day for a period of time.
Do you write to discover, or do you write point-to-point (for example, from an outline)?
Both. An outline is just a treasure map, and not necessarily an accurate one.
What was the first thing you ever published?
A short story called "The Hunters" in the University of Delaware literary magazine. I learned later that it was read out loud by summer campers on the Chesapeake Bay each session at the final campfire—the best audience I never knew.
Who is your favorite North Carolina author?
Ron Rash—for his lyrical intensity and respect for the craft and just plain great writing.
Registration for the NCWN 2013 Fall Conference is now open.