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Get in the Habit of Writing, and Reading, with Marianne Gingher

Marianne Gingher
RALEIGH—Author and longtime professor of creative writing Marianne Gingher will lead the “Creative Nonfiction Master Class: Writing the Artful Memoir” at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2021 Fall Conference, November 19-21, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham/RTP.

Conference registration is open.

Marianne Gingher is the author most recently of Adventures in Pen Land, a comic memoir of her writing life, and the editor of Amazing Place, an anthology of essays. Her nonfiction has appeared in the Oxford American, the Washington Post, the Southern Review, Our State, and elsewhere. She recently retired from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she taught creative writing for more than three decades.

This year, NCWN is asking authors for “one good piece of advice,” either something they were once told that they never forgot, or something they wished they could go back and tell their younger selves. Marianne says: 

“Read, read, read. Read everything: history, poetry, biographies, essays, fiction. Read widely and constantly. First thing every morning, read. Then begin to write the sort of book you haven’t read yet but would like to read.

“And, from Annie Dillard: ‘Write as if you were dying….What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?’

“And Flaubert’s advice to be regular and orderly in your habits so that you can be wild in your art suggests that the writing life requires a degree of calmness away from the churn of distractions. My former colleague, the late Max Steele, used to tell his students that writing a single page a day for 365 days will produce a novel. Slow and steady wins the race. But you have to be there at your desk, habitually, same time every day.

“You have to want to write more fiercely than your ability to postpone it. Hemingway is said to have solved the problem of postponement by always stopping his writing day at a point in his writing where he knew what was going to come next and couldn’t wait to return to the manuscript.”

It’s a wild ride, life. Messy and unruly. Yet for all its rambunctiousness, you’re trying to lasso it to the page. The more you write, the more complicated telling true stories seems. Some days you doubt your skill at writing a narrative that others might find compelling. How much truth is too much and how much is too little? How might you generate some sense of dramatic urgency or suspense? How do you make a quiet life seem interesting? Do you find yourself prone to digressions? Is your project suddenly feeling too unwieldy? The “Creative Nonfiction Master Class: Writing the Artful Memoir”  will focus on crafting personal narrative and memoir with special emphasis on selectivity, streamlining, and editing. Participants will also be introduced to “flash” nonfiction as an editing tool for longer form narratives. Suggested readings: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard; “Winter in the Abruzzi,” by Natalia Ginsburg from her essay collection The Little Virtues; The Boys of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard; and two excellent online magazines: Creative NonFiction and Brevity.

For Master Class application instructions, click here.

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. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will give the Keynote Address. Additional Master Classes will be led by Tyree Day (poetry) and Mesha Maren (Fiction).

Register here.

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