I’ve been Roared at, and the correct blog response, apparently, is to roar right back – but in a different direction. Let me explain.
My roar came via the poet, novelist and Stonecoast MFA alum Bunny Goodjohn, who in turn had been roared by another writer, and so on. Roar etiquette requires that I list three things I think are necessary for powerful writing, and then to send roars out to another five fearless writers, and then each of them….well you get the idea.
My three criteria for powerful nonfiction writing:
Pull up the curtain. Drop the good girl (or guy) façade, banish the need to make oneself appear, in print, any better, kinder, smarter, more right or wise than in life.
Keep it real. You know, don’t make stuff up. That’s called fiction. If the real stuff interferes with your point, you are making the wrong point.
Remember that no one cares. About you. About your story. But that readers really do care about themselves. The really good nonfiction writers help the readers find themselves in our stories.
So thanks to Bunny, who unlike her name might suggest, is quite courageous on the page, here are my roars.
Harriet Brown. Any writer who can call one of her blogs “Feed Me!” and make it meaningful, gets a vote from me. Harriet is an insightful writer who contributes to the science pages of the New York Times. She’s written about what comes after a child’s recovery from anorexia and is a sharp critic of the psychological harm than can ensue from the country’s national obsession with childhood obesity and politically correct eating. She’s also a terrific editor (full disclosure: one of my essays is slated for her spring 2008 anthology about eating and body image).
Erika Dreifus. When I was pondering the whole MFA idea – Should I? Where to apply? Which acceptance to accept? I discovered Erika, dispensing clear-eyed advice on the Poets & Writers boards, and then found my way to her exceedingly helpful blog and newsletter, where she helps connect and encourage writers to opportunities of all sorts. Her e-book guides to Essay Markets and Book Review Markets are painstakingly compiled (more about these in a future post).
Allison Gilbert. I don’t know Allison well, but about six weeks ago, we had one of those 15-minute chats at a writer’s gathering and went “click” (well, I clicked; I’ll have to ask her if she did too.). Before we met, I already admired Gilbert’s inquisitive mind and fluid writing, as well as her forthright manner in her HuffPo blog in which she’s chronicling her optional hysterectomy in response to a family medical history fraught with ovarian cancer.
Michelle O'Neill. Writing in an area flooded by predictability, where essays by writer-moms-of-special-needs-kids tend to all sound the same after a while, Michelle stands out for all the right reasons. Her writing is neither sentimental nor sappy, never whiny, victimized or over-wrought. She just tells good stories and they happen to all be true and about her life with her challenged child and her family.
Jenny Rough. Jenny and I have crossed electronic paths from time to time, and while I can barely remember why or when, I do remember that any time I see her byline, I know that I will probably like the essay or article that follows. I admire her grit in switching careers from law to freelance writing (we all know what that must have entailed) and her flexibility in the subjects she tackles.
Those are my Roars. Time for this lion’s siesta.