Monday, May 9, 2011

Ham the Ham

First things first:

Don't forget our second blogiversary critique giveaway! Details at:

And enter our book giveaway for Mary Ann's new release, Camp K-9!

Good luck!


So... momentous moment in our household of writer types! My four-year-old wrote his first note the other day – unprompted and perfect.

[Translation: “I luv Kate.”]

You wouldn’t know it from all the fighting heard around our house this weekend, but hey.

In fact, Patrick is currently in a phase (I hope) in which at least 20% of what he says is completely made up. I asked him to describe a book he read the other day, and the fantastical account that I got led me to believe that he either A) has no idea what he read or B) decided he could make up a much better story. (After enduring a zillion easy readers about ‘nibs’ and ‘vats’ and all manner of CVC words that mean little to preschoolers, I am pulling strongly for the latter.)

His elder sister, on the other hand, is mostly a staunch realist these days (apart from the occasional game of Superhero and her steadfast belief that someday she will indeed fly). She brought home from kindergarten this week the most perfect writing assignment of all time.

Ham is a (stuffed) English Bulldog. He comes with his own carrying case, bone, leash, collar, bedtime books, and journal. He goes home with a different student each weekend and comes back to school with a full report on his weekend activities.

Because we are one of the last families to have Ham (and boy, have I heard about that!), we had the privilege of reading most of Kate's classmates’ tales. These were generally factual accounts peppered with some fun leaps of faith: Ham misses the teacher. Ham enjoyed a mac and cheese dinner. Ham made a puddle on the floor (three, in fact).

The delicate melding of fact and fiction is, let's be honest, something we do in our lives every day. How often do we embellish, do we add or remove detail to make our point most effectively? Creative non-fiction and biographically based fiction (“write what you know”) have a lot more in common than we might like to admit.

I always tell my students that the fact. vs. opinion vs. fiction dichotomy is more of a continuum -- much blurrier than we often realize.  Into which category, for example, does The Bible fall?

When I wake up from a hazy dream – as occurs frequently since I can’t remember my last uninterrupted night of sleep – and later can’t remember whether something was real or a figment of my imagination – if I were anyone but a writer, I might think I was losing my mind. As a writer, I think -- good! My unconscious is working on a story for me!

Writing Workout
1. Write a 250-word account of an event that's happened to you within the last 24 hours.
2. Change one specific detail to make your story more vivid or interesting.
3. Finally, keep a nugget of truth from your story and rewrite the whole thing so that it's almost entirely fictional.
Which is your favorite version?


The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I pick number three. I got so any wonderful nuggets this weekend.

Gretchen Woelfle said...

As a biographer, I'm so wary of that blurry line between opinion and fact. I choose the details that support my opinions, but how far can I take that? Though I like writing fiction, the challenges of writing biography are even more alluring.