Mid-South Creative Nonfiction ConferencePosted: March 1, 2008
I’ve been to the mountaintop. I wanted to come to Oxford and study under the masters, and I have.
In writing creative nonfiction, it’s all about Experience and Artifact. In Dinty Moore’s manuscript workshop Thursday in the Chair’s Conference Room in Farley Hall at Ole Miss, eight of us discussed capturing and turning our experiences into words. We have our raw material in the form of our own personal stories. We become architects as we draw them out and decide what they will look like — frame and structure.
We had each submitted ten pages of a memoir or essay and critiqued each other’s work prior to the workshop. In this all-day class, we spent a half hour or more on each person’s work in an attempt to make it better. Because this conference is in Mississippi, I thought I’d be surrounded by Mississippi writers, but this was not necessarily the case. We were a mix — Nancy is from North Mississippi, Robert from central Mississippi, Jane from the Mississippi coast, Sherry from Colorado, Bambi from Georgia, Sarah from West Virginia, and Susan and I are both originally from Mississippi, but she now lives in Memphis and I’m in Nashville. Dinty is a self-admitted Yankee, even though he lived in Louisiana briefly. The writings were beautiful and intense and personal, and we pointed out ways to lift them all, to give them clarity, meaning, and purpose.
Thursday evening on Thacker Mountain Radio, Dinty read from his book Between Panic and Desire, and Off Square Books was packed — for him and the hand-clapping, foot-stomping music. The Yalobushwhackers, Ryan Bingham, and Caroline entertained for the hour long radio show.
Friday, during Dinty Moore’s Characterization in Memoir workshop, we focused on character — how to effectively show or imply how the character feels and how the character’s movements, body language, and actions show who he is, and how to accomplish all this through story. During an extended lunch period, we separated and completed a writing exercise, then read and discussed them during the afternoon.
The real conference kicked off with a reception Friday night at the Memory House, after which Sarah, Sherry, and I ate dinner at the Downtown Grill. The best thing about this event is the continuation of writing discussions into the night, and part of my mountaintop experience has come from meeting people like Sarah and Sherry and Bambi, and determining to form our own creative nonfiction critique group online and support one another in our efforts. It helps that Sarah’s last name is Einstein, and her great grandfather’s cousin is Albert. I think we are the Nonfictionistas, but that is subject to change. I feel so blessed.