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I am a writer, poet, and free-lance editor. Author of Lawmen of the Old West: The Good Guys and Lawmen of the Old West: The Bad Guys. I've had poems and stories in di*verse*city, Blood and Thunder, West View, The Enigmatist, and others. I love poetry but enjoy all forms of writing and editing. I'm the author of two books of poetry, Songs on the Prairie Wind dealing with the people, land and history of the rural Southwest and Voices of Christmas, the traditional Christmas story in free verse persona poems. I do contract editing of other writer's manuscripts. I'm the worst guitar player in the Common Folk band at Trinity Episcopal Church. I'm an imperfect husband to the perfect wife (she might read this sometime), father (great grown kids) and grandfather (they're great kids, too)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creative Nonfiction, A Question

Today we had our monthly writers—workshop, meeting, class—I’m never sure what to call it. It seems to change from month to month. We meet at the John Ed Keeter Library in Saginaw. (that’s Texas, if you didn’t know) It was a nice little group, varied in age, experience, and focus on writing and I had a great time. I got to get all professorial which is my natural wont although I don’t think it’s the best thing for the group. The others seemed to enjoy themselves. I did end up with a thought on a point that I have struggled with.

First let me admit to having done exactly no research at all, none, zilch. I just keep reading about “creative nonfiction” and have picked up some ideas about it but probably just enough to get me in trouble. If I ever want to know more I should go some year to The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest at the University of North Texas. (http://themayborn.unt.edu/conferences.htm) I would get an earful there I’m sure.

I just wonder if I would really come to understand the idea of “creative” and “nonfiction” going together. What started this train of thought was a participant in the workshop this morning gave me a simple definition. “It’s telling a true story as if it were fiction.” I thought, “Well, that’s clear and easy to understand.” but that was just before I started trying to think about the limits of the creativity that could go into such a project. That’s sort of what I was trying to do with my profiles of Old West lawmen in my two books but it seems to me that if you are telling a historical story as if it were fiction then you would need to create dialogue that history doesn’t give you and suppose actions that you think are implied by the outcomes that you know occurred. At some point this has to become fictionalized history instead of creative nonfiction, I think. My problem is how to define that point.

Input anyone?

I read this small piece of metrical verse (a very old form of English poetry) to the group today. I wrote it as a result of an observation of a woman and child that grew into something more in my imagination. It has a definite form but no rhyme. We got rhyme from the French along with neckties and other irritations.

For the Child’s Calm

For the child’s calm she collects herself and
holds threatening, treacherous tears at bay.
Smiling, she strokes his silky black hair
while behind his back she bites her nails
and bravely blinks the blinding drops away.
This public place has pushed her pride
to make a mask of moderated pleasure
to hide the hurt that he brought on.
Abuse isn’t blows and bruises every time,
words and worry can wreak the same.


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