Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thoughts on a Creative Nonfiction Writing Class

             This last fall semester I took my first ever writing class, which was labeled as an Autobiography class, but turned out to be more of a write-a-short-memoir class, aka creative nonfiction. Now some of you cool kids might be frowning slightly, thinking this post is not for you because you think that nonfiction is not for you, but I am writing this to prove you otherwise, and not that you owe me anything or anything, but I definitely have my own two cents to give on the matter. So without further ado here is a list of things Kateri thinks about her first (creative nonfiction) writing class.


1. This class is a writing class, therefore you will write, but you will also write creatively. (Unless your professor specifically says that it will in fact be a research, factual based auto-biography class. Hint: if it says “creative writing” anywhere in the class description this is probably not the case.) Basically, I was writing actual stories from my actual life, but in a thoughtful and creative sort of way.


2. The material that we used was great…for all writers! And something I really liked about it in the long run was the stress it put on telling stories that happened to you, about telling stories truthfully, which, once you get into the groove of it, can be surprisingly liberating. But what I’m really trying to say here is that the first chapter we read was about making time to write and finding your inspiration on a daily basis, even when inspiration doesn’t come to you, which is something that all writers can and must use! So just because a writing course doesn’t seem like your course, it doesn’t mean there won’t be anything that will apply to you as a writer, and especially doesn’t mean that you won’t learn anything.


3. You—yes, YOU—have stories. I believe the second chapter we focused on was all about dealing with the problem of “but I don’t have any stories. My life isn’t interesting!” Well, guess what? It is! Trust me I ran into that problem like probably a dozen times a week, but still I had a finished piece to workshop every time with many thanks to our weekly writing exercises, which if it’s a good creative writing class it SHOULD HAVE! Your juices are always flowing and being challenged and the best part is that you’re in an environment where people actually want to read your stuff. Because they all know your pain and they all love stories.


4. In light of that point, there was something very powerful I learned in taking this nonfiction class and to better explain why I think this, I will say that we liked to call the class Unpacking our Traumas 101. Basically, everyone in that class let everything out of the bag, and I know a lot more about drug and alcohol abuse now than I did before, but that’s not what I’m trying to say made the class so great because there were stories about rare diseases, divorces, bad dates, childhood memories, even a comical one about bringing a gun to school! But people, the point here is that all these learning writers felt comfortable enough to share those intimate stories in a very intimate setting, one where you were exposing yourself in all your metaphorical nakedness to what is likely a room full of strangers. And in the end, it’s awesome! Seriously, we had our portfolios turned in before finals so we just had a total party! But having the opportunity to tap into my own deeply personal and vulnerable stories, many of which I didn’t even know were actual stories before, was so, so wonderful! I felt that by the end, my self-worth not only as a writer but as a person was greatly uplifted.


5. Lastly, and in all practicality: deadlines. You definitely have some deadlines in this kind of class that are not only important for your writing but for your grade, and I don’t think you wanna miss those. Got attention-span/I just don’t feel like it problems? Then nuff said.


5. Ok, now lastly, I am taking a fiction writing class and now having really learned the importance of writing what you know, I’m already thankful I took a class about writing memoir.




Here’s to deadlines!

Here’s to becoming a better writer!

Here’s to realizing that WE ALL have stories!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

As if I was Never Gone

This post will (mostly) be as if I was never gone...
Which means that I will spare you the essay-length description of what has been going on with everything me in the last what? six weeks? I lost count.
Let's just say since then I've done some performing, as in my last Nutcracker, and finished yet another grueling semester at school.
And now it is time to start yet another!
And also time to start blogging again. Yaaayyyy!
I have picked three topics to blog on and will present them in three individual parts. Like my organization? Thank you.
First part will be easy and fun because it is another round of The Latest Three.
Second part will be me shifting into a new gear with a more lengthy post on my experience in my first writing class.
Third part will be the epic climax with two--count them TWO--fairly large announcements, and I think it fair to state that using the word "fairly" is an understatement, but until then you'll have to wallow in your nerve-wracking, nail-biting anticipation. XOXO
So, without further ado, Da Polka Bot presents...
The Latest Three
The Diviners, Libba Bray
What was cool about this book was that I found I would recommend it to people who liked Libba Bray's first series, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. It just felt to me like Bray was getting back to her thrill-seeking, boy-crushing, creeptastic* roots. I LOVED this book! There's a butt-load of characters, but the story mostly follows Evie O-Neil in 1920's Manhattan and oh yeah there's a devilish ghost plot and a bunch of youngin's who have special powers and all their fascinating stories are intertwined and I love the fact that this book is SO HUGE and it is unbelievably cool and I basically have a literary crush on Libba** Bray. Oh and all her other books are legit too. Check 'em out.

The Fault in our Stars, John Green
 So I have basically spent my last year in shame because of the fact that I am a very bookish person, especially a YA bookish person, who had not even touched a page of John Green's books. I am proud to say that illness has officially been cured. So many people gave me the WHAAAAAT? face when they knew how much I love to read this genre and learned I hadn't read any of his stuff. Well I can see what all the fuss is about. This book, first off, is a cancer book. Now you see, my mom had cancer so therefore I don't really read cancer books. There's a stigma to them for me, but I was thinking about it and it has been a long while and my mom is perfectly healthy now and if so many people were shunning me for not reading it then I should probably do just that. Well, needless to say, I read it in two days. There's not really much else I can say except to repeat those oh so familiar words: Read It.

War for the Oaks, Emma Bull
 I took an Intro to Short Fiction and the Novel class (aka: Book Club Class) and we read lots of books but I only actually read one book in total from front to back (long story, don't ask) and that was this book, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. I'd give this book perhaps three stars out of five, not that I'm a huge rating fan because I'm so bad at comparing books, but this book mostly just "had its moments." Know what I mean? What I did really appreciate was the fact that I had a college professor who actually assigned some legit genre fiction and did so not in order to point out why it was not actual fiction. In fact, we gave as much time to this book as to all the others like Jane Eyre (my FAVORITE!) and Beloved, which I also really liked, and Light in August by William Faulkner, which is a whole other blog post. But I digress. This book is one of the original urban fantasies as it was written in the 80's. There's some really solid prose in here, a commendable romance, nice humor, sexy fairies, and--my favorite--as much presence of magic within the mundane world as in the fantasy world, through music, which really made this book stand out for me. It's not YA, but if you're thinking of trying some light reading that's a little more grunge, adult humor then give it a try.

Here's to loooong breaks!
Here's to a new year!
Here's to time to read so Kateri can make a blog post about it: good for so many reasons!!!

*Got a new computer for Christmas. Definitely just added the word creeptastic to my dictionary.
**In light of that, my spellcheck just said Libba was not a word and my only options were Libra, Libya, and Libber...Libber?...with a capital L? Really?