Annie Dillard says, “The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out.” If you have a nonfiction or memoir project in progress, you probably agree. But you may be asking: how do I decide? I have all this material, but how do I shape it? Where do I begin and end? Which parts do I put in and which parts do I leave out? To find answers, we will focus on identifying the three to five threads or themes that run all the way through your book or essay, creating a warp that unifies the writing and provides narrative structure. Once you have identified your thematic threads, it will be easier to make the call—IN or OUT.
Designed to help you step back and gain perspective on the process of structuring and completing a memoir or nonfiction project, this workshop is a place to explore structure through writing assignments and to get constructive feedback that clarifies the overarching goals and themes of your project. Haven’t written nonfiction before you started this? Don’t have a complete draft? Worried your project is some weird hybrid? No problem—write hard and bring what you’ve got. Join us to wrestle with structure, find unifying threads, and gain perspective in good company.
Writer and activist Carol Spindel’s memoir In the Shadow of the Sacred Grove was a New York Times “Notable Book.” Her nonfiction book Dancing at Halftime explores the controversy over American Indian-themed mascots in American sports. Her award-winning commentaries have been heard on National Public Radio and her essays and reviews have appeared in publications including African Arts, Oxford American, and Guernica Magazine. She recently retired from the University of Illinois, where she received the King Broadrick Allen Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching.