Creative nonfiction, like all other forms of creative writing, is a demanding genre. In whichever form the writer may find themselves working—and there are many: personal essay, memoir, lyric essay, meditative essay, literary journalism, immersion, travelogue—the most common thread is the self, the I as the eye, one’s own life and experiences as vehicle for exploration.
By Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Translation Faculty
His name is Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez. Propublica tells us Carlos was just sixteen years old when he died of the flu in a cell at a detention center in Weslaco, Texas in May 2019. He was from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala and the fourth minor to have died while in the custody of the Customs and Border Patrol Agency of the United States in 2019. He had followed his brother north, hoping that a new country would give him opportunities his own could not provide. The other children who have died in custody this year are also Guatemalan: the eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the not-yet-three-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, and the sixteen-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez. In 2018, two minors died while in custody, both girls: Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran, and Jakelin Caal Maquín, a seven-year-old Guatemalan.
By Elaine Neil Orr, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty
Since I wrote this short essay about Covid-19 and sliding into depression and finding a way out, I’ve felt depressed again, more than once. I’m seeing a pattern and learning how to pull myself up. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. Today after my graduate seminar, I told my students I love them. It’s true. I do love them. But I would not say that in “normal times.” I’m saying it now that we are all more aware of how fragile life is. My students’ faces registered real joy when I spoke that sentence: “I love you.”
I hope we can make it permissible to find the good that this period of our lives yields up.
Maybe this blog can yield up some grace in your day.
Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books, including her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and the novel, A Different Sun. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds captures the moral imperatives of integration in the early 1960s and was a finalist for the 2019 Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Book Award in Fiction. She has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She serves on the faculty of English at N.C. State University as well as the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.
By Dianne Aprile, Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
Many thanks to my brother Kevin Aprile, an editor in Ohio for the Chronicle-Telegram, who invited me to write about living at the epicenter of Covid-19 in its early days. What follows is an updated version of the original column that ran on March 29.
My husband and I have a longstanding breakfast-table ritual. Over coffee and toast, we routinely and enthusiastically interrupt each other’s private thoughts as much as possible by calling out surprising or outrageous headlines ripped from the pages of one of the two print newspapers we read each morning.
By Katy Yocom, Spalding School of Writing Associate Director of Communications and Alumni Relations
This is the time of year when students and alums start sending me GIFs of impatient cats, with captions like “Me watching my email for news about Paris.”
I know you’re eager to make your plans. I swear we’re not holding out on you; we’re just putting the final touches on the residency. And in that spirit, even though final details are still in progress, here’s what I can tell you.
By Debra Kang Dean, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Faculty
For any circuit the electrical current is directly proportional to the voltage and is inversely proportional to the resistance.
As a consequence of my bewilderingly high scores in the electronics section of the battery of tests I had to take before enlisting in the Air Force, I was recruited into the field of ground radio repair. It turned out to be a poor match since I never really got beyond being able to read schematics; I console myself by believing that one need also have mechanical sense to do well, and my scores on that part of the test had been dismal.
By Elaine Orr, Spalding School of Writing Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Faculty
I recently had the good fortune of a one-week writing residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, not a long retreat, but long enough to crack open my novel-in-progress, roam around in it and warm it up. Anyone who has written a novel knows that if you leave it too long, it goes cold, and it’s frightening to go back in. It’s like entering a winter abode with no means of heat. And who knows if things have gotten worse while you were away. Maybe the furniture is shabbier than you remember, the cupboards barer, the wallpaper flapping off the walls. It really can be like entering a haunted house.
By Catherine Berresheim, Spalding MFA Creative Nonfiction Alum
I’ve been in and out of a variety
of prisons for over the last decade. Even though I am accustomed to being in
these penitentiaries, I wasn’t prepared for the foreboding atmosphere of Unit
Two at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute—otherwise known as Death Row. Nor
was I expecting to encounter the abundance of artistic talent within those
cinder block walls and the lessons they held on teaching and practicing the art
of creative writing.
By Fenton Johnson, Spalding MFA Creative Nonfiction and Fiction Faculty
“Nothing induces silence like experience,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, an observation that comes to mind more often as I grow older. On occasion I have considered that the best way to teach creative writing might be for the workshop to read together, first in silence and then aloud, a paragraph by a master, then sit with that paragraph in silence for the next two hours. These thoughts come particularly to mind now because, in teaching my most recent Spalding intensive, I neglected to conclude my workshop with the admonition with which I conclude all my workshops, i.e., forget everything I’ve said, open your heart, go out and look at the world, and write.