#cnfwc16 — Twelve Quotes Full of “Insight and Inspiration” from the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

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  1. “A draft is full of sentences that are auditioning. – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “With an outline you’re not going to write about what you don’t know you know.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “Save your seedlings.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. Try writing by hand, because “your fingers are connected to your arm, the veins to the heart.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. Instead of saying that the reader has to do some work, think of it this way: “The reader likes to participate.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “First draft writing is like no other kind of writing – you have to go into the woods and keep going. Second draft writing – you have to see the forest for the trees.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “The title is the door to your essay – but a door works both ways.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “Wherever you have the wrong set of feelings, that’s a fruitful place for an essayist to be.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “The biggest thing an editor can do for you is get [you] out of your head” – Jason Bittle

 

  1. “Immersion is about waiting. It’s not about finding a story to fit inside your pre-constructed ideas, but letting a story unfold.” – Maggie Messitt

 

  1. “If you don’t have belief in your own gut, develop it.” –Adriana Ramierz

 

  1. “Burst upon the page.” – Lee Gutkind  

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Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Randon Billings Noble author photoRandon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times; The Millions; Brain, Child; Los Angeles Review of Books; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; The Rumpus; Brevity; Fourth Genre; Creative Nonfiction and elsewhere. A fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, she was named a 2013 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow to attend a residency at The Millay Colony for the Arts. Currently she is a nonfiction editor at r.kv.r.y quarterly, Reviews Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and a regular reviewer for The A.V. Club.

#cnfwc16 — Personal Essay at the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

2016_ConferenceBanner_3_HThe 2016 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference worked hard—and well—to address the many subgenres of creative nonfiction, but as a personal essayist I was most excited to hear Kristin Kovacic speak on the panel “Revising Essays and Short Work.”

Kovacic identified herself as a writer of personal essays and spoke of them with both fluid eloquence and sharp intelligence.

“First draft writing is like no other kind of writing,” she said. “You go into the woods and you have to keep going.”

“Second draft writing – you have to see the forest for the trees.” And this is where you start to revise.

For personal essay, revision involves distance. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in your own story, your own thoughts, your own feelings. But to ensure that you achieve a level of necessary distance, Kovacic asks three vital questions (adapted from Patricia Hampl’s excellent book I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory):

  1. How many things is this about? (Don’t ask what this essay is about but how many things.) Then make a list.
  2. How are these things connected? (That’s where the surprises come.)
  3. Who do I represent? (This is a great question through which to achieve distance, which, in turn, shows the importance of the story.) Are you representing an innocent abroad, a third wave feminist, an only child, a motorcycle rider? How do you write differently as a representative as opposed to an individual?

After answering these questions you can turn to details. The details of the story you’re telling have to bridge two things: what happened, and how you make sense of what happened.

“The artful part,” Kovacic said, “is how you track your thinking. The creative part is following a mind a work.”

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Kovacic also suggested to always title your essay, even if your first title serves as a temporary, working title. “The title is the door to your essay – but a door works both ways. It’s an invitation” but it’s also an indication of what your essay is about. You may find that your essay’s content – and therefore title – changes drastically in the revision process.

Other helpful tips included:

  • “A resonant work picks up meaning each time you use it; a repetitive word doesn’t.”
  • “The best place to look about how to stick your ending is back at the beginning.”
  • “There’s a lot of mea culpa in this work that makes it honest.”
  • “Wherever you have the wrong set of feelings – that’s a fruitful place for an essayist to be.”

For more wise advice from Kristin Kovacic, find her teaching at Carlow University or the Chataqua Institute, or read her essay “On Usefulness” for guidance by osmosis.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Randon Billings Noble author photo

Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times; The Millions; Brain, Child; Los Angeles Review of Books; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; The Rumpus; Brevity; Fourth Genre; Creative Nonfiction and elsewhere. A fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, she was named a 2013 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow to attend a residency at The Millay Colony for the Arts. Currently she is a nonfiction editor at r.kv.r.y quarterly, Reviews Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and a regular reviewer for The A.V. Club.

 

#cnfwc16 — Connecting at the Creative Nonfiction Conference

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The ballroom fills with guests chatting, donning their red lanyards reading CREATIVE NONFICTION in white text. I sit three rows from the front, sipping complimentary coffee, looking around and wondering if I will make any friends. This is my first big conference, and these large socializing groups remind me of the high school cafeteria, searching for a face I know in the sea of grinning faces on the first day of school.

It doesn’t take long, however, and this isn’t like high school at all. I meet Ruth, a freelance journalist sitting next to me, and then Jackie, another twenty-five year old like me, eager to learn more about creative nonfiction. Soon we are talking about writing over coffee and I am at ease with my new peers when Anjali, conference coordinator, introduces Lee Gutkind, the godfather of Creative Nonfiction.

“Hey, Hi,” he says, holding up a friendly hand. He is glad we are here and to see how the conference has grown, how the genre has grown over the years. He tells us that Creative Nonfiction, the magazine, started twenty-three years ago in his dining room in Squirrel Hill, PA. That before, people laughed at the genre and its silly title “creative nonfiction,” that it was a struggle to legitimize the genre in the beginning.

“And now,” he continues, “we are growing like mad…. It’s a movement, not a moment.”

And over the next few days that’s what it feels like.

Jackie and I find that we are registered for the same classes, and later we go to lunch in the city. Over lunch in the park we exchange ideas, we scrawl notes on napkins, recommendations of writers the other should check out. We ask questions about creative nonfiction as a genre, the ethics, the faultiness of memory, and what we think still needs to be written about. And while meeting agents and editors is great, this is also why we come here. To share what we know in the hopes of learning more about ourselves and the craft of writing creative nonfiction. The conference could have any number of great classes and teachers, all fine and good, but it’s just as much about the small connections, the conversations at lunch, the discussions in the hallway of the hotel that make this conference so worth it.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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image1-3Annalise Mabe is completing an MFA at the University of South Florida, where she writes poetry, comics, and nonfiction. Her work has been featured/is forthcoming in Brevity, The Offing, The Rumpus, Booth, Word Riot, Hobart, and was nominated by The Boiler for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She reads for Sweet: A Literary Confection and is an editor at Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. She lives in Tampa, Florida, where she teaches composition and creative writing at USF.

#cnfwc16 — Report from the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

2016_ConferenceBanner_3_HCreative Nonfiction’s (CNF) motto is “True stories, well told.” It’s also true that their annual conference held over Memorial Day weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tried to please everyone. More than 150 writers at varying stages on their journey gathered for three themed days of panels and presentations: “Write,” “Revise,” and “Publish.”

The first day offered master classes with Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, and others. The second day featured the harder work of revision through research and adaptations. The final day focused on the realities of the publishing industry and do’s and don’ts of writing book proposals, agent queries, and platform building.

Rather than the traditional literary readings or workshops, the CNF staff hosted a nightly happy hour. Long lunch breaks encouraged attendees to explore the restaurants, cathedrals, and museums within walking distance. CNF also offered twelve conference scholarships to their “Writing Away the Stigma” fellows.

For a novice writer, Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference really was “three days full of insight & inspiration.” For the already well-published writer, it was refreshing. If attendees sought individual access to agents, editors, and publishers, they were generous and available. For CNF fans, small really was a better way to learn to tell a true story.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Melissa Scholes Young’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers, Poet Lore, and other literary journals. She teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. and is a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @mscholesyoung