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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Theme Non-Fiction

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

Excerpt from Puerto Rico, Feb 23, 1968, by Denise Levertov
“…You see how it is—I am angry that they feel no outrage. Their feelings flow in the wrong directions and at that wrong intensity. And all I can bring out of my anger is a few flippant rhymes. What I want to tell you—no, not you, you understand it; what I want them to grasp is that though I understand that Mitch may have to go to jail and that it will be a hard time for him and for me, yet, because it’s for doing what we know we must do, that hardship is imaginable, encompassable, and a very small thing in the face of the slaughter in Vietnam and the other slaughters that will come. And there is no certainty he will go to jail.”

The well-known guidelines for solid nonfiction are still the basic who, what, when, where, and how, but the undergirding purpose is why.


Nonfiction sings when curiosity begins a dialogue of interest. When an author has a connection with their topic and a desire to share, then trust is built.

Focus on the heart of your topic, your potential audience age, the questions you need to research for clarity, confirmation of truth, vocabulary, and the impression you desire to share from your specific experience.

“People are always interested in other people.” Jane Fitz-Randolph

Find the Angle. For example, Deloris Jordan wrote a memoir story for children of her famous son when he struggled playing basketball at the neighborhood park one particular summer, and how his commitment turned his despair into success. This one specific insight into this gifted athlete opened up a whole new generation to recognize love, family, perseverance, and faith through this true story.

Be interesting to a broad range Audience. Regardless of your immediate intended audience look for the themes that are universal and ageless, and their truths will cross age, race, and culture. Life matters.

Be Authentic. The research needs to be solid. If you include interviews be sure to get permission. If you are doing historical research and find conflicting material give the reasons for the discrepancy and why it is an issue.

Find fresh material or Application. For example, women played a much more dangerous role in many battles, such as World War ll, that were not acknowledged or revealed at the time due to danger for them and their work.

The movie Hidden Figures unveils the three women math geniuses that played such an important role in NASA. Why did it take so long to release their stories? What factors will connect to your specific audience and age group? What do you want to be made open that was hidden?

Action Steps:

Begin to ask the questions now. Use the italic outline to write down potential ideas.

1. Who is your intended target audience?

2. What will be the reader expectations be that you need to include?

3. What overall effect do you want your readers to leave with?

a. Hope? What kind: emotional, physical, spiritual?
b. Solutions? What kind: cost, time, and/or relational?
c. Entertainment: Why? Long term—short term?

4. Write up a sample outline for an interview to fill in either in person or for research material.

Share: What did you choose in step three and why?

Read deep, marcy

A Few Interview Suggestions

1. Be clear regarding what you want to discuss.

2. Do the interview in a location that will make both of you comfortable and at ease without interruptions.

3. Be clear on boundaries and time commitment.

4. Ask if you can record.

5. Don’t interrupt but note where you would like more details and ask later for clarification.

6. Build up to any difficult questions. Wait until the end to ask them.

7. Be considerate of any emotional trauma your questions create and be sensitive.

8. Offer to show share the material once you have written it to be sure it’s acceptable to your interviewee before you publish.

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