Episode 46—Editor Hattie Fletcher on Seeing Rhythms and the Power of Reading Slush

Hattie Fletcher
Hattie Fletcher, editor selfie

By Brendan O’Meara

Hattie Fletcher Tweetables:

“I spent a lot of time getting at what writers were trying to do with their stories and trying to make stories be the best form of that.”

“If you want to make a print object there’s an obligation to make a nice print object.”

“Editors, I guess, wield power. I don’t know anyone who loves saying ‘no.’ It’s not a personal thing.”

“The best part of my job—and it comes four times a year—is saying ‘yes’ to people.”

“Reading slush is such a great exercise for a writer.”

“I don’t think art that is deliberately mapped out is any less artful.”

Here we are for Episode 46 (!) of The #CNF Podcast with Creative Nonfiction’s managing editor Hattie Fletcher.

If you want to improve your writing and possibly improve your chances of being published in Creative Nonfictionthen this is your episode.

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Thanks for listening!

Episode 45—Bronwen Dickey Returns to Talk about the Paperback Release of Pit Bull, Troll Culture, and How Perfectionism Kills

Bronwen Dickey, Brendan O'Meara
Bronwen Dickey, everybody!

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Bronwen Dickey (@BronwenDickey)

“To be able to see something you put so much time into have a life outside your head is amazing and to connect with readers…”

On trolls: “The way a culture corrects itself is when people refuse to be cowed by that bullshit.”

On when research is over: “As Susan Orlean says, ‘You meet yourself coming the other way.'”

“I’m very drawn to upending stereotypes or going into a community of people that the public may think it knows.”

“Getting into those conflicts is where stories happen.”

“Perfectionism will truly kill you.”

“Everything that I have ever written, I can’t read.”

“The world will absolutely keep spinning on its axis if I write a story that fucking blows.”

“Every project feels like you’re at the bottom of Everest.”

Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: Battle Over an American Icon, returns to The #CNF Podcast and we had a lot of fun talking about troll culture, how to know when the research is done, why she finds herself at the center of these polarizing conflicts, and how perfectionism kills.

Be sure to check out our earlier episode from 2016 where she was equally illuminating and charming

Please subscribe to the podcast wherever you get them (iTunes and Google Play Music badges are in the right margin) and my monthly reading list newsletter. If you dig the podcast, do me that solid. Thanks!

Episode 44—Philip Gerard on the ‘Thrill’ Creative Research

 

Author Philip Gerard

By Brendan O’Meara

So in a new segment for the podcast, potentially at least, I’m experimenting with little audio essays about various titles I’ve read and the wisdom gleaned from those pages.

It could be from a podcast guest’s book, or maybe not, but the point is to insert some sonic joy into your ears in well under ten minutes.

It can’t hurt to try, right?

Which brings me to Philip Gerard’s The Art of Creative Research: A Field Guide for Writers. The book pulses with curious energy and equips the writer with the tools to cull and curate information. Like a field guide for a series of hikes, this magnificent title leads you through the vast wealth of information and stories out there for the picking.

Just feel the love and joy coming from the pages when Gerard writes:

I love getting in my car in the predawn darkness, watching the dashboard glow blue and silver and red as I turn the ignition, feel the neighborhood still all around me.

They’re all asleep, my neighbors, and I’m awake and stealing away on an adventure.

It gets at the pure fun of the process. Writing need not be a torturous or perilous pursuit. Because inside all those delightful artifacts lie something buried, something to be unearthed.

He writes:

If I am good enough to make it happen.

And I love it that sometimes I am good enough to make it happen.

I love the moment when someone tells me something he or she never intended to say, the look of wonder and discovery in their eyes, the smiling tears of memory, the clutch in the throat that carries all the story you’ll ever need to hear. The pang of good-bye, leaving a stranger who has just confided his most precious secret, hoping you will honor it—I don’t love that, I never get used to that. Yet afterward, how I do cherish the memory of.

The Art of Creative Research stems from what all writers have—whether they know it or not—and that’s curiosity. Gerard writes:

At the highway rest stops, I can’t help but wonder where everyone else has come from and where they are bound: the chic couple in the red convertible sports car, the rowdy family with all the wild kids pouring out of the camper, the pensive loner hurrying back from the restroom with his hands jammed tight in his windbreaker pockets. I want to get in all their cars with them and go someplace else, anywhere but here, and find out why: Why are they going? What’s waiting at the end of the road?

What dissolves away are the illusions of making it big as a writer, the questions of money and fame, and what is left in the stockpot is a love of narrative, story, making something grounded and reaped from the time you spent buried in research.

He writes:

It’s a lot of work, and it takes some gumption, but it sure is a thrill.

For more about Philip’s book and his process, be sure to listen to Episode 38 of the #CNF Podcast and be sure to pick up his book at your library or at your local bookseller.

Please subscribe to the podcast, my monthly reading list newsletter, and leave a kind review. Thanks so much for listening.

Episode 43—Mary Heather Noble on Emotional Charge, Emotional Distance, and Not Discarding Work

Mary Heather Noble’s “Eulogy for an Owl” won Creative Nonfiction’s Editor’s Prize. Photo by H. Romero

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Mary Heather Noble

“I think it really gets at the heart of whatever people perceive themselves to be, as part of a natural system or not.”

“The emotional charge came to light for me. Before [Eulogy for an Owl] was a creative nonfiction, research-based thing that didn’t have any pow to it, didn’t have a story behind it, it was just a fascination for me.”

“It needs to rise like bread, first, before you can take it any further, or let it cool before you frost it.”

“I know not to throw away writing.”

“Writing is a little bit more like quilt making where you keep these other parts and less materializing from thin air.”

“I’m one of those writers who has spurts and dry spells.”

“Other different art forms can inform our writing.”

“I tend to look at my pieces like a box of puppies that need to find homes.”

Great day and a sad day.

Great that I get to share this episode with Mary Heather Noble (@MH_Noble on Twitter). Sad because I had to delete Episodes 1 through 8 from the #CNF archive for storage reasons.

That will likely be the case from now on. Every new episode will kick out the oldest one. 

If people want older episodes, I’m working on transcripts (ugh) and possibly putting old episodes on CDs. I admire those folks and podcasts with the budgets to keep all their work up indefinitely, but with no ad revenue or subscription service, I can’t keep pace. It already costs me quite a bit as is.

That said…

I welcome Mary Heather Noble, an environmental writer who won Creative Nonfiction’s editor’s prize in Issue 61’s “Learning from Nature” edition. Her essay “Eulogy for an Owl” is a magnificent piece of writing and particularly profound for me it talks about moving out west and the latent guilt of leaving bitter family behind.

Just so you know, the misses and I are totally down with the move, but we receive(d) our fair share of guilt trips, which is particularly maddening, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to talk about Mary Heather’s work and her approach.

Housekeeping: Share this episode with someone you think will get value from it, subscribe, leave a 5-star review in your directory of choice. Makes me feel good and will help the podcast reach more people.

Let’s dive in. Here’s Mary Heather Noble.

Also mentioned is Kim Kankiewicz’ episode. 

Episode 42—Roy Peter Clark, America’s Writing Coach on Living Inside the Language, Lowering Standards, and the Meaning of Literacy

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Roy Peter Clark:

“If I live till 90, I hope that year I’m still learning about the craft and still helping in some way.”

“We’re probably going to see new things in it because our autobiography has changed.”

“If you’re literate, you read in certain ways and you write in certain kinds of ways, but it’s the third element people fail to see: If you are a literate person, you have the capacity to talk about [it].”

“Every piece of writing needs a focus, a central idea.”

“It’s my mission to open the door for literacy and good writing wider and wider so more and more people can imagine themselves as belonging to a community of writers, a nation of writers.”

“What good is freedom of expression if we lack the means to express ourselves?” 

“Too often, more research is an excuse for not writing.”

Howdy there, CNFers, hope you’re having a CNFin good week.

I snagged you a great guest this week, luck on my part and generosity on the part of Roy Peter Clark, America’s Writing Coach, scholar, and author of five books on writing in ten years: Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, Help! For Writers, How to Write Short and The Art of X-Ray Reading.

I’m going to repeat that: five books in ten years. I revisit them all the time to sharpen the saw. Each time I crack open, say, Writing Tools, I become better and better.

In this episode you’ll learn a lot about how Roy came to live inside the language, and how those early experiences led him, ultimately, to the Poynter Institute where he coached and influenced a nation of writers.

Maybe the most important takeaway from this issue of #CNF is the amount of mentors and teachers Roy mentions throughout this episode and the influence they had on his development as a writer and teacher. 

I debated whether to break this up into two episodes, but decided to leave it as one whole.

I do hope you’ll share this episode with others, subscribe if you haven’t already, rate it, if you haven’t already, LIKE THE FACEBOOK PAGE, subscribe to my email newsletter, etc, etc…

Thanks for listening, guys, now sit back and enjoy the one and only Roy Peter Clark.

Some of Roy’s columns from Poynter.org:

Trump on quotation marks

On William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well

On Jimmy Breslin #legend

 

 

Episode 41—Jennifer Niesslein, the Full Grown Person behind Full Grown People

Jennifer Niesslein
Jennifer Niesslein talks about what it means to be an editor.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables:

“I only write when I have something that I really need to figure out.”

“My job is to get the essay to its platonic ideal.”

“I took a personal crisis and made a publication out of it.”

“I wanted to make the magic happen.”

“So much of writing is rhythm.”

Jennifer Niesslein, formerly a co-editor and co-founder of Brain, Child, and currently editor and founder of Full Grown People, joined me on Episode 41 to talk about the art of editing.

Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, the Brevity blog, Virginia Quarterly, and The Nervous Breakdown.

She’s also the author of Practically Perfect in Every Way.

Why wait any longer? Here’s Jennifer Niesslein.

Episode 40—How to Be Like Mike (Copperman)

Mike Copperman
Essayist, memoirist, novelist, Michael Copperman

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables courtesy of Mike Copperman

“I think the emphasis on process is something you learn in sports. You need to pay more attention to how it is what you’re doing and not what the outcome necessarily is.” 

“To me I’ve got to have my heart in it and I have to have something to say or something at stake.”

“I’ve learned that I have to trust that impulse, which just means sticking with the process and how you would write.”

“What is true that I don’t want to admit both within myself and about the world I’m interacting in?”

“I don’t give anybody a savior story because that wasn’t my story to tell.”

“It was my way of writing myself whole.”

Mike Copperman, author of Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta (University Press of Mississippi), joined me talk about his book, and how he became a writer. 

His work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Oxford American, Guernica and many, many others places. Be sure to check out his website for more

Beyond that, all I ask is that you share this episode with people you think will get something out of it and that you quickly rate the podcast. It’ll help me reach more people and get these gifted writers in front of more readers.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 38—Philip Gerard and The Art of Creative Research: Passions, Daydreaming, and Daring

Author Philip Gerard, one of the most interesting men in the world.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables:

“You’ve got to be daring. You’ve got to have that unshakable belief that ‘You know what? Somebody’s gonna publish a book someday. It might as well be me.'” —Philip Gerard

“I don’t really have hobbies. I have passions.” —Philip Gerard

“If I do this enough days in a row, probably I’m gonna get there.” —Philip Gerard

“I found that if I hang with them long enough, they would often tell me something interesting.” —Philip Gerard

“I began realizing there was a significant amount of work that wasn’t on the page, but if you did it, it would be on the page.” —Philip Gerard

“My problem is I’m interested in everything.” —Philip Gerard

“At a certain point the journey is over and you know it.” —Philip Gerard

That enough tweetable quotes for you? 

Philip Gerard, writer and teacher, joined me for 90 minutes of energizing talk about the craft. I had so much fun and left this conversation fired up to pursue a bunch of stories I’ve got stuffed in the drawer.

The Art of Creative Research (University of Chicago Press, 2016) is a deep dive into what it takes to write authentically across all genres. Bottom line: You need to do serious research. 

You need to walk the hills, feel the gun kick back on your shoulder, put on the latex gloves in the archival rooms, and swim in this stuff. 

So what are you waiting for? Get researching! Wait, wait, wait! Listen to this first, then go get your hands dirty.

Episode 37—Angela Palm is a Cartographer? Well, sort of

Angela Palm signs copies of her kick-ass memoir “Riverine”.

By Brendan O’Meara

“I like that [Riverine] is imperfect, because to me it shows I’m trying this style and approach as an artist.” —Angela Palm (@angpalm)

“You still have to start at Word 1, Sentence 1.”Angela Palm

“Getting the music in your head to translate on the page was a very difficult thing for me to figure out.” —Angela Palm

Yeah, podcast!

Let’s keep racking them up, baby. Angela Palm is my guest this week. We talked about her delightful memoir Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here (Graywolf Press). We also dive into her essay “Hierarchy of Needs”, which appears in Issue 62 of Creative Nonfiction.

What else? Be sure to check out Angela’s website for the latest on her work. Also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Google Play Music. The badges are on the right of the page. 

And from another Graywolf Press author, Paul Lisicky

Episode 36—The Joyful Kim Kankiewicz Writes with Her Ears!

Kim Kankiewicz won best essay for Creative Nonfiction’s Issue 32 contest.

By Brendan O’Meara

“You write in isolation and a rejection doesn’t give you a lot of feedback.” —Kim Kankiewicz (@kimprobable)

“What I have to process is my own thoughts and experiences; does that matter to anybody else? The reason I write is to make connections with other people.” —Kim Kankiewicz

Here we are again, picking them off one by one. 

Kim Kankiewicz’ essay “Rumors of Lost Stars” won Creative Nonfiction’s best essay contest for Issue 32’s theme of “Joy”. It’s an essay about communal acceptance, overreaching, and then personal acceptance and redemption. She threads this around the mythology of three stars. The parallels between the myths and her story make this essay sing.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. Badges are over there ===============================================>

Also, I could use some reviews. If you dig the podcast, mind throwing me a bone?

Thanks for listening!

Links

Kim’s McSweeney’s Internet Tendency story.

People Mentioned

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