Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

A Day of True Stories at Central Carolina Community College!

There were startup-594090__480giggles. There were sighs. And there were some tears. But overall, Conference Room 103G in Building 42 at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro quaked with joy yesterday. With 11 students, we were almost at full capacity, which says a lot for the power of creative writing.

 

“Who else do you know,” I asked the students, “who would rather be here than outside on a gorgeous day like today?”

To their credit, those 11 brave souls chose to spend six hours writing, reading, and writing again. Writing from real life takes a special kind of courage, and it’s more than a little cathartic.

We wrote of our upbringing, our love stories, our dearest memories and our scariest moments. We even confessed our most embarrassing episodes. Whatever we wrote, we wrote from the heart. Every single word was true. And we did it all in miniature. In most cases, less than 500 words!

Flash essays are suddenly wildly popular, especially on the heels of the surge in flash fiction. But the truth is that little essays have always been in style. Remember those little gems in Reader’s Digest? Life in These United States….All in Day’s Work, etc? Most major publications now want your littlest stories too, from The New York Times to national magazines like Psychology Today to state magazines such as Carolina Country. In fact, the list of markets (including contests) was so vast it took up two whole pages in our handouts!

Want more flash essays? If so, consider joining me for an abbreviated version of this same workshop in Charlotte on Saturday, October 12 at the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts. There’s just one seat left in that class, so don’t delay! We’ll share writing tips and prompts, and I guarantee that you will end up with more than one draft of a saleable essay.

Also, as you polish your stories, look ahead to January 4, 2020, when we’ll hold a special workshop for all writers on Submissions and Contests, also at the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts. Join us, make some new friends, and prepare to share your writing with the world.

Register for The Fabulous World of Flash Essays on October 12.

Register for Submissions and Contests on January 4.

And top secret! Stay tuned for a special  workshop next spring. I’m very excited because it’s an entirely new topic for me, and we’re taking a very unconventional approach. 🙂

I hope to see you soon. Until I do, keep writing and delighting!

 

 

 

Do You Have a Story to Tell? Join us on September 21 for a Flash Essay Workshop!

writingDo you have a funny story you’ve been itching to put down on paper? What about a poignant memory of a first love? The history of a cherished family recipe that you’d like to share? Or did your dog do something that simply cracked you up?

Of course you have a story! Every human being is simply brimming with fascinating true-life tales, and yours is probably even better than the ones I just described. From “Tiny Love Stories” in The New York Times to the food essays in Saveur magazine to family memories in Carolina Country, there are more markets than ever that would love to publish your stories. And many of them will happily pay you for them. Or you could win a big prize!

From my writing experience, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have published essays in places such as Romantic Homes, The Raleigh News and Observer and most recently, in Women on Writing and Mental Papercuts, I’ve learned that there’s a trick to taking an anecdote and turning it into a marketable short-form (or flash) essay. It’s not enough to simply relate your story as it happened. Readers long for what’s known as a “takeaway” – a little nugget of wisdom or insight that they can apply to their own lives. And it’s not hard to mine your stories for this tiny gem; chances are, it’s been there all along!

If you’d like to learn more about how you can turn your life experiences into memorable and compelling flash essays, I hope you’ll join us at Central Carolina Community College on Saturday, September 21 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. We’ll read some of the best flash essays being published today, draft some of our own, and explore the various markets for publication.  Click here to register online or call 1-800-682-8353 (or 919-545-8044) to register over the phone.

As we always do when we gather at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, home of state’s only community college-centered Creative Writing Program, we’ll have a boatload of fun doing it.

Bored? Write about it….

snow.jpgAs we recover from the early December snowfall, trapped at home due to icy roads, it’s easy to feel bored.

There are only so many ways you can reorganize your pantry and entertain house-bound dogs, and yes, even watching movies gets old pretty quickly. And reading, while always stimulating, feels self-indulgent to me after days on end.

I need to be writing! New material, not just editing. As good as it feels to whittle and sculpt, there’s no substitute to the high you get by rolling out new pearls. So, on to new stuff….

When writing creative nonfiction, it’s easy to be intimidated by all the great prose out there. I recently read essays by a woman visited by the ghost of her mother, an environmentalist who protests exploitation of sea life by robbing coastal souvenir shops with his father, and a piece by George Orwell about a wild elephant on the rampage in Burma. Do you ever feel that your own experience, while certainly special to you, seems inferior when stacked up against that of others?

Don’t! Just because you haven’t survived a harrowing incident recently, been the victim of a crime (thank goodness), or saved a baby from drowning, you still have an extraordinary life, and I promise, you can find something inspirational to write about.

And on that subject, one of my favorite prompts came from a Women on Writing  newsletter. It goes like this: “Take a small, boring moment that happened and write as much as you can about it. Go overboard describing it, and make this boring moment exciting by describing it in intense detail with ecstatic prose.”

So while we all might not have an earth-shattering event at our fingertips, we all do have a seemingly boring incident to write about AND possibly elevate. You just have to be creative about it. Such an assignment might also be fun — at the very least, it’s certainly good practice to flex those creative muscles and push yourself in this way.

Humm…reorganizing my pantry is suddenly exciting again. And didn’t one of the dogs do something silly this afternoon on a walk through the neighborhood….

 

 

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way….

to my mammogram! The surreal experience happened a couple of years ago, and eventually I wrote a humorous narrative essay (“I Know What She’s Thinking”) that was just named a Runner-Up in the WOW (Women on Writing) Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Contest.

If you can tell a story, consider penning a nonfiction piece. There are so many types, from narrative (like mine) to description (a piece describing your favorite beach house, for example) to one intended to argue and persuade (Swift’s Modest Proposal, for one). And the market is better than ever. Publications, print or online, yearn for your stories and unique spin on topics both familiar and unfamiliar. In fact, Carolina Country just accepted my husband Johnpaul’s “I Remember” submission for later this year.

Interested? For starters, read some of the other winners in the WOW contest. They will stoke your imagination, particularly “Let’s Kill Your Grandfather Together” by First Prize Winner Adriana Páramo. It simply held me spellbound, both the power of the language and the empathy of the narrator. I can’t quit thinking about it. Needless to say, I’m just honored to have my little piece among the final ten.

As a next step, consider joining the WOW community. The website is regularly named a top site by Writer’s Digest. I signed up for the free newsletter several years ago at the recommendation of a writer friend. And I’m so glad I did. The articles, blog, prompts, and classes offered have been incredibly inspiring, and recently led to an Honorable Mention in the Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest for my story “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People.”

In the words of the ancient Chinese writer Lu Chi (250 A.D.): “The pleasure a writer knows is the pleasure all sages enjoy.  Out of non-being, being is born; out of silence, the writer produces a song.” May the world hear yours!