ASHEVILLE—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Nonfiction "Exploding Your Drafts."
Fall Conference runs November 8-10 at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore. Registration is now open.
Jeremy B. Jones is the author of Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland, which was awarded Gold in "Memoir" in the 2015 Independent Publisher Book of the Year awards and named the 2014 Appalachian Book of the Year in Nonfiction. His essays appear in Oxford American, Brevity, The Iowa Review, and frequently in Our State magazine. Jeremy is an associate professor of English at Western Carolina University and the co-editor of In Place, a literary nonfiction book series from Vandalia Press.
This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Jeremy to give us his best library memory.
Here's what he wrote:
"When I was a boy, my grandmother volunteered at the library down the road. She had worked in the high school library until she retired, and then she became the minder for my cousins and me in the summers. We were wild animals, and she kept us fed and safe whenever we stepped indoors briefly. When we started back to school, she drove down Chimney Rock Road to the tiny Edneyville branch library (a singlewide trailer above a creek) to shelve books and file cards. Later, we sometimes went with her, especially once the card catalog became a computer and she needed our help. I remember reading books in her house, pulling novels off shelves in that library, but as a boy, I only wanted to be outside. Books seemed too small, too slow. So I blurred past everything.
"A year after my book Bearwallow came out, a memoir that is dedicated to my grandparents, I had the chance to read from my book at an event in that small library above the creek. Before the reading started, I walked the stacks (three rows of them) and couldn’t shake the impossibility of it all: finding my own book on those shelves I’d rushed through as a boy, where Grandma straightened all spines. In truth, I’d only written my book because I finally learned to ask my grandparents to tell me stories. I’d learned to sit still (sometimes) and listen to them talk to me about their lives, about the far-off world that is the past. I’d started sorting out who I was, who I might become, by listening to all the tales of the people who’d come before me.
"My grandmother has passed on now, and when I take my sons to the library every week for the next Boxcar Children mystery or Pete the Cat, I imagine everything that those rows of books might mean for them. For who they might become. And whether they know it or not, I know this: wherever they go, my grandma and that singlewide library are taking them there."
No matter the form—memoir, personal essay, lyric, biography—a draft often benefits from an explosion: making the material more ambitious, rangier, and, sometimes, messier. Jeremy's Master Class will explore the seams of your material to see where we might place a charge and blow things open. What’s the story under the story? Could a counter thread create unexpected meaning? Where could we dig deeper into memories to discover bigger questions? We will read excerpts of complex, ambitious nonfiction and try numerous exercises to build our writerly muscles. Then we’ll put those muscles to work, as we workshop our drafts and consider where they might go next, how they might blow wide open.
Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Additional Master Classes will be led by Abigail DeWitt (Fiction) and Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs (Poetry). Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.