The Alabama Writers Conclave held its 2013 conference in Fairhope July 12-14; well-known authors and poets filled the schedule to workshop with attendees, sign books and speak at events. During Saturday morning's nonfiction workshop, Linda Busby …
The Alabama Writers Conclave held its 2013 conference in Fairhope July 12-14; well-known authors and poets filled the schedule to workshop with attendees, sign books and speak at events. During Saturday morning's nonfiction workshop, Linda Busby Parker discussed Personal Essays and Memoirs: Stories From Our Lives.
Parker began by saying of nonfiction, “It's a very exciting area because it's an evolving genre.”
Nonfiction, including biography, autobiography and personal essays, has encompassed the memoir – a form that allows the author to capture a slice of life, or a particular place or relationship, she explained.
“People used to snicker when they hear of a 20 year old writing an autobiography,” she recalled. “It was a joke because they hadn't lived long enough to have wisdom.”
But the memoir has changed that, she said.
“You might have 10 memoir in you where you only have one autobiography.”
She explained that the genre of creative nonfiction has opened doors beyond typical fact telling.
“'Creative' means we can now use the elements of fiction – dialogue, scene setting, explicit and sensory detail ...”
Further, she revealed that personal essays can work as a miniature memoir, as a “scene where all the action is in one block of time or location.”
Creative nonfiction also offers flexibility of time, according to Parker.
“It's a tremendously liberating idea to think you don't have to write chronologically,” she divulged. “If you've had a dream, some wisdom or something in your heart, you can write it.”
For example, she explained that some authors write only in scenes, then go back later to connect the story.
While creative nonfiction offers many breaks from tradition, she said that one rule remains supreme.
“In every novel, memoir, short story, you need an arc, and you need an arc within each scene, as well,” she offered.
The four components of the arc, Parker explained, are the exposition (situation or problem), rising action (tension that continues to increase), climax (epiphany) and resolution (release of pressure).
She demonstrated this point by using two examples, “Kim Gannon Had it Right,” by Kathleen Whitman Plucker and “The Store Bought Christmas Doll,” by Judy Lee Green. The class read the two personal essays and pointed out the four sections of the arc in each one.
She then challenged everyone with an exercise: “Think of episodes in your life where you can see the arc; there are things that have made an impression on me as a teenager and stayed with me all these years, but I still can't see these things (the components of the arc).
She suggested everyone find a friend in the class to stay accountable to. She asked everyone to write their own personal essay and email it to their new friend within one week of the conference.
Find more photos of the event at GulfCoastNewsToday.com and stay tuned for more Alabama Writers's Conclave workshop features. Find Beth Ann Fennelly's poetry workshop, “The Balancing Act,” in the July 30 issue of Arts & Entertainment, then Tom Franklin's “Good Editing” workshop in the Aug. 6 issue.