Out of Clutter, Simplicity: Structure in Creative Nonfiction

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Out of Clutter, Simplicity: Structure in Creative Nonfiction

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Of all the elements in story, the greatest is structure. Structure is the skeleton, the chassis, the undercarriage, something that is not necessarily created but unearthed. In order to understand structure, a writer has to be able to deconstruct a piece of writing to see how it is fabricated. Like an insect, creative nonfiction (including memoir) has three basic parts, and these three parts fit together to make structure. The elements of craft – things like description, setting, character development, and so forth – operate within the three segments.

Learning the triad of structure will help make your work come alive. In this class Ray will also give you her top five pieces of advice for constructing a sound foundation. You will brainstorm possible structures and Ray will talk about one amazing and very successful essay structure she was taught in grad school. She will cover narrative arcs, a driving line, and chronology. Come with a notebook, prepared to free-write and jot notes.

Instructor: Janisse Ray, Visiting Author

Date: Friday, Feb. 22

Time: 2 - 5 p.m.

Location: Porch HQ (2811 Dogwood Pl., Nashville, TN 37204)

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About the Instructor: Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is author of five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of eco-poetry. In 2018 she was the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. She won the 2017 Southern Environmental Law Center Award in journalism for her piece on coal ash, published online in The Bitter Southerner: “From Ashes Such as These, What Can Rise?” She is a 2015 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. In 2014 Ray was awarded an honorary doctorate from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga., following one from Unity College in Maine in 2007. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, where she was the William Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer 2014.