October 3, 2016 by The Citron Review
Our lives are full of triumphs and tragedies, both large and small, personally and globally, which become the stories we tell. However, to draw from the work of Vivian Gornick, it is what we make of our “situations,” as she calls them, which truly transforms them into stories.
At Citron, we are looking at how the creative nonfiction writer crafts language to create connections between the writer and reader, between themes and thoughts, images and emotions. Voice is a key element that we are looking for—the particular choice of words, pacing, structure, point of view—that express the underlying themes of the work. We are looking for the author’s central insights, however nuanced, that structure the story and integrate the personal and universal to build meaning.
Beginnings and endings are important: we are looking for a beginning that draws us in, and an ending that creates the final side of the structure, keeping us thinking and feeling, perhaps long after our reading is done. We want to learn something and to feel something: about the writer, the world, ourselves. We want to understand, or perhaps even more importantly, to become aware of what we do not understand.
In her essay, “Guilt,” Patricia Newberry recounts a haunting memory of the dark side of Paris and its evocative smells, sights and sounds, painting a picture of an unforgettable character. Interweaving sensory detail with precise language, Newberry creates an emotional reflection on this incident that suggests the regrets we all carry as we move through our lives. Her final two paragraphs especially illustrate the way that beautifully rendered imagery can connect us through the heart.
The act of writing can create an inexorable tension between satisfying the reader and satisfying oneself, particularly when writing for publication. In her essay, “The Act of Writing,” Mona Dash provides a lyrical address, transporting us to worlds afar as she explores the expectations of readers and the delights found in the written word. The confident and provocative sentences that begin the first and second paragraphs and challenge the reader provide a strong example of the use of voice and an effective beginning.
The earmark of a distinctive piece of creative nonfiction can be the fresh examination of a topic that seems either utterly mundane or wholly overfamiliar. Who amongst us has given a second thought to the humble sardine? Yet, in her essay “Sardines,” Jennifer Fliss provides a sensory meditation which brings us into the body and across the globe, tempting us too, into the experience of this simple creature. I am in Greece, I am in her childhood kitchen. I trust her to take me to either.
Contrarily, in her essay, “When Stars Kill,” Corrina Carter helps us to let go of the weary, overused images of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio to look at the Titanic tragedy anew. Her choice of fresh and vibrant words like, “outshimmered, ruddled, wimpling,” wake me up. Through the skillful interweaving of fact and imagery, Carter brings that fateful night to life. Her momentary shifts from third person to first person bring a freshness to the piece and offer the reader a closeness to the writer as she brings the global to the personal. I am transfixed.
And so, we offer you, these four pieces for your own gustation.
Marianne Woods Cirone
Creative Nonfiction Editor