Aside from Peter, who supposedly guards the gates of heaven and is a pivotal figure in any number of jokes, the only saint who’s ever remotely interested me is Francis of Assisi, who was friends with the animals.
When I was young, my family didn’t go on outings to the circus or trips to Disneyland. Instead, we stayed in our small rural West Texas town, and my parents took us to cemeteries.
To follow on from last month’s post in which I sang the praises of creative non-fiction, I’d like to share with you some things I have learned about working in this often misunderstood genre (after much trial and error).
Here are my top tips: The most obvious, and least sexy, tip is that to engage deeply with creative non-fiction you have to read as many books in this genre as you can.
Everyone has a story to tell and a message to share.
The challenge lies in getting that story and message out of your head and into print in a way that resonates with your audience.
Here are seven tips to help you craft a personal essay that will connect with readers. Here’s a definition we like: A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner. A type of creative nonfiction, the personal essay is ‘all over the map,’ according to Annie Dillard. No subject matter is forbidden, no structure is prescribed.
Ask three different experts what a personal essay is and you’ll likely get three different answers. You get to make up your own form every time.’ —Richard Nordquist for Thought Co.
Finally, read the most adventurous current practitioners, such as Geoff Dyer, Maggie Nelson and David Shields.
If you haven’t read these writers yet, I’m really jealous of you. Craft your ‘I’ with great care, as if you were a fictional character. It is commonly understood among creative non-fiction writers, and also dedicated readers, that the ‘I’ in the work doesn’t equal the author, that it is a version of her, shaped to fit the story.