From Just the Facts to Creative Nonfiction and Fiction

I began writing stories some years ago as an attempt to get through the long recovery period following surgery on my hand. I figured, I’ll be able to type with one hand, when I won’t be able to do much else. So before the operation, I signed up for a creative nonfiction class at WriterHouse here in Charlottesville, VA, my home. My excellent teacher, the poet and essayist Rose Elliott, encouraged all of us in that room. I wrote dialog for the first time. It seemed to work. I kept writing.

a bandaged hand

unexpected side effects?

The following year, my hand gradually became useful again. I took a fiction course at WriterHouse and got back to typing with two hands. That fiction class was where I met three women. When one of them suggested we consider a critique group, I did not think twice before expressing interest. I’m so glad I did! As a result of my work with this writing group, which we named BACCA Literary, I’m writing all the time.

I’ve published nonfiction think-pieces in periodicals about the arts, law, technology, and public policy. For five years, I edited and produced an online magazine about arts and education. I am also an experienced lyricist.

Then I discovered creative nonfiction. I get to write dialog, combine characters, and distill the course of events. It’s good fun. So’s fiction, where you get to do that stuff, even more so. Fiction lets you invent entirely new characters and situations. Worlds, if you want.

On the other hand, I have discovered that getting any kind of creative writing published isn’t as easy as the nonfiction article-writing I used to do. Can I just say, the term “submission” is unfortunate? I prefer to say I’m “sending my work out.” That’s one big difference between the articles I used to write – and get paid for – and the work I’m doing now. I am committed to making it work.

My fellow BACCA writers and I have presented panel discussions and group sessions at the Virginia Festival of the Book, sharing the word about Creating a Great Writing Group and Meet (or Create) Your Writing Group. Read more about the writer group at our website. After the Virginia Writers Club invited us to present our writers mixer at their annual symposium, Charlottesville’s Jefferson-Madison Regional Library hosted us in October 2015 for another writers mixer.

In addition to my own writing, my business, Chenille Books, here in Charlottesville, keeps me immersed in words as a creative coach and manuscript developer for nonfiction authors. Our clients organize their thoughts, establish their voice, and build a narrative – and a timetable – so they can get their book finished and polished. We provide coaching, as well as consulting assistance with indie publishing. Through our network of strategic partners, we also help our clients build their platform and extend their influence and readership. If you’re feeling stuck on your writing project, contact us for a free consultation.

My book, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is available now. In Central Virginia, you can pick up the trade paperback from fine booksellers including New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, Black Swan Books and Music, Staunton, Baine’s Books, Scottsville, as well as on Amazon, where you can get the ebook version as well. FLOAT is a desk reference and guidebook for writers who’d like to improve their experience of writing.

— A M Carley

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