The Story Circle Creative Writing Class will meet next Wednesday, May 20th (note new starting time 5:30 to 7:45 PM) and the 3rd Wednesday of every month at the Safety Harbor Library. We have added an extra half hour to the meeting.
Assignment: Jan bought a big bag of keys at the flea market and thought they would make a good topic for our writing assignment this month. Everyone in attendance selected a key from the pile. If you weren’t there imagine a key and write about it. We suggested everyone try to stretch some by writing fiction instead of memoir. See what your creative mind can imagine about a key. Write in 600 words or less. Give your story a title, give us the word count when you read.
All Writers Welcome: We invite all writers to attend the class. It is a wonderful opportunity to associate with other writers and keep motivated. It is one of the reasons Jan and I continue to do this each month. Seventy months so far! You may learn something new that will help you with your current project or your next one. If you have friends who write, please forward this email to them.
Each month we provide a writing assignment with a maximum word count of 600. Everyone has an opportunity to read their story and is given gentle feedback from the group. After all the readings we provide you with a short lesson on some aspect of writing. Dialog, editing, creating the scene and opening paragraphs are a few of the topics we have covered. No reservation required and no cost to you.
Third Edition of our Chapbook is published! Diane Persall put the books together, we have two, this time, so many stories were submitted. The books are wonderful with color photos and a beautiful cover designed by Jill Barber. Many thanks to both women and to all of the contributing writers. The book sells for $3.00 each or four for $10. We still have a few of first two books you can purchase at the meeting. You want to make sure you have the entire set.
“I don’t write fiction.” Another lie!
The leaders or conveners of the monthly meeting of the writers circle at the end of the meeting always challenge the participants with an assignment for the next meeting. The assignment is usually a topic. For example, this month the assignment was to write something (600 words or less) on “falling.” Various individuals wrote wonderful pieces of prose or poetry. Some were stories of events in the writers own life journey. Others were metaphorical and still others were deliberate fantasies or fiction. For next month our assignment is to take a key from a pile of old keys one of the leaders had brought and write a 600 word or less fictional piece. My immediate thought was, “I do not write fiction.” As I thought more about this statement I was aware that it is not true. Of course, I write fiction.
What is fiction? Oxford Dictionary states:
- Literature in the form of prose, especially short stories, and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
- Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.
- A belief or statement that is false, but that is often held to be true because it is expedient to do so.
I began to think about the fact that when I talk about an event in my own life or about an event in the life of someone else I witnessed or was told it is never more than a piece of truth which has been filtered through my accumulation of biases, prejudices, expectations and fears. There may be some kernel of truth, but it is wrapped in the fabric of what is now my story. I am well aware that if the story begins as something which happened in my life it has now been kneaded, shaped and left to rise over time in the warmth of my imagination or, perhaps, out of the bin of regrets to an invented reality. Often I cannot identify the original kernel.
What is the difference between my stories as I now “remember” them and those which I might deliberately imagine or invent. What is fact? What is fiction? I know that some of what I think is a fact can be “fact checked” much as the political fact checkers are constantly checking the “facts” of what political candidates say.
I have framed degrees from various academic institutions. They each attest to the fact that from x date to y date I completed a required course of study to the satisfaction of the particular institution of so-called higher learning. That is the extent of fact. What happened between x and y other than I enrolled in and completed the requirements for certain courses to someone’s satisfaction is not recorded anywhere. What I think I remember may bear very little resemblance to what someone else may have witnessed or heard.
Even if I deliberately set out to compose a fictional story, I may have consciously or unconsciously incorporated an event from those stored in my memory bank.
Another form of fiction is described by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her Ted Talk “The danger of a single story.” In this Ted Talk she discusses the danger of only telling “a single story about another person, event or country.” She reminds the listener or reader that a single story only tells a small piece of the truth and perhaps not even that.
All this went through my mind as I thought about the lie I had been telling myself about what I write. I had said, “I do not write fiction.” This is not the truth. It may or may not be a partial truth. Even when I have my fictional niece and nephew exploring some subject or concept, I invent not only Sam and Paul but the circumstances which will fence in the exploration. Even the concept which I have these fictional characters exploring are my version or definition. The characters, Sam or Paul, are loosely based on some very precocious young people that I know. Yet, as Ms. Adichie reminds us, no one story or even ten stories about these characters will give one a complete understanding or picture of who they are. They are always more than that. As is true of all of creation not only can I not give a complete picture of who they are at point A in time, they are never the same from one moment to the next. Everything and everyone is constantly evolving. This is true whether they began as an invented character or a historic one.
This morning I was reading a letter from Frederick Douglas to Harriet Tubman written on August 29, 1868. The truths he relays to Ms. Tubman about his impression of her which says something of him, gives us a tiny window into the lives and souls of these two human beings. He says, “I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.” (Quoted in article in the Wall Street Journal, opinion section, A11, April 21, 2016 from Sarah Hopkins Bradford’s “Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman.” a letter dated August 29, 1868.)
The long and the short of it is that I must now replace the lie, “I do not do fiction” with a new truth. This truth presents new challenges and opens new windows. I will want to be more careful in presenting my offerings as either “the truth” or even “a truth.” Perhaps my imagination can now be allowed new wings. Ahh! What color of wings would I like? How big should they be? Where will they take me?
Check out Coach Pickett’s blog at the above link.