Embarking On A New Journey… (Genre)

Next semester, I have decided to branch out. Well not really, my main motivation behind that decision is because I almost, basically have to. With the rule that you cannot take three of the same genre workshops in a row, without a directed study or whatever the fine print is… I found myself struggling in filling out my application. All I have ever written is poetry. However, my poetry is all Creative Non-Fiction.

With this in mind, I set out to apply to the CNF track (fiction was an absolute lost cause…). I emailed Lytton in a panic, per usual, and he assured me in my choice of this endeavor. My poetry literally is CNF… I just had to omit the line breaks, add more of a theme, and string together some sentences… easy enough, right?

I sat down, with a blank word document, thinking about what to write about. I had a few things in mind, and of course my train of thought always conducts itself onto my family… which is fine because my family, specifically my dad, is my muse anyway. So I wrote about a very specific incident in my family’s life, and I just kept writing and writing, until after ten pages, it was ‘done’.

I was proud of myself for doing this, and it was so satisfying to complete this application. The writing however, was not just the ‘string together a couple of sentences’ mantra that I originally thought. Obviously, it was much more than that. Trying to recall the specific details, and thinking of ways to phrase the syntax of my sentences was an interesting feat. Usually in poetry, if I’m stuck, I just make my diction more concise by taking out small words — those of which that don’t matter in poetry such as ‘of, it, my, the’ … but in CNF — you can’t really do that. So, the ‘cut your darlings’ technique — my go-to — was not as reliable this time around for the sake of literal grammar, which doesn’t apply in my usual genre. My style of writing was also more scenic, rather than abstract and imagined — as it should be. So, again, it was a different experience overall, but I do indeed feel accomplished.

I asked for feedback on my piece, from a trusted friend, and after taking their critiques into consideration, I was ready to submit my application. I even wrote a small note on my cover sheet, saying “I already took poetry twice, time for a new genre” with a smiley face. I was nervous I wouldn’t get in, so I felt this need to debrief and defend myself in a weird way. But no worries, a few days later, I found out that I indeed made it into the track!

Now that I am admitted into a CNF workshop I have NO IDEA what to expect. But, I sure am excited.


Julia xoxo

3 Replies to “Embarking On A New Journey… (Genre)”

  1. Creative Non-Fiction is something that is so brave, I think (even braver than poetry in some respects.) The fact that the majority of it involves the life experiences of the author and involves some degree of truth is something that I’ve found intimidating in high school (the first time I took a course in Creative Non-Fiction) and still find intimidating a year out of CBH’s creative writing class.
    I think no matter how much you plan on writing the perfect piece (I would always meticulously comb through my life and plan my essay knowing that my personal experiences and vision were up for critique) you can’t plan how people will respond to it and how you will respond to those critiques: it’s so unpredictable. Also totally unexpected. Then again, you use your family as inspiration for a lot of your poetry, so I think you’ve got that major hurdle behind you. The more you push yourself (in a way that feels healthy for your mental health) the better you will feel. This genre rewards vulnerability and vision, and I have a feeling you will kill it.

  2. I’ll be in the CNF workshop next semester, too, if that gives you any comfort. In many ways I felt like poetry was my branching out as I’m most comfortable working in CNF, which I realized only after going through the workshop last spring.

    The way I see it, CNF and poetry at just two different ways to go about discovery. By the end of either, we need to have understood something we (including the narrator/speaker) wouldn’t have considered without being pushed. CNF leans on the dynamics of narrative a little more to form an experience, I think, while poetry is overjoyed with exploring form more freely to discover its experience. In the end, like Sarah said, it’s about vulnerability and a willingness to be vulnerable–most importantly, with yourself. I’ve come to realize a lot about how I think using poetry that would’ve never came out in CNF. Maybe you’ll discover something you’d never thought to consider while writing poetry.

    I think you’ll be more than fine.

  3. Hey! I too will be in the CNF workshop next semester. I’ve taken two CNF workshops (one wasn’t at Geneseo), but I’ve never taken a class with the professor for next semester’s course.

    Since this is my first poetry workshop, I think so far I’ve noticed that poetry doesn’t necessarily require the space from life events that CNF does. CNF can be frustrating in that way, because something big will happen in my life and I want to write about it, but I’m not quite sure what it means yet. And that meaning is essential to CNF, without it, you don’t really have that added layer that justifies the piece. I appreciate poetry because I feel like I can turn raw emotion into a poem. Maybe that’s not always best, but I don’t quite feel the same pressures that CNF provides.

    Like you Julia, I tend to write poetry about myself, or people in my life. So my poetry follows similar trends and themes as my CNF. I think poetry is very useful when writing CNF, though. They feel like they share many characteristics.

    Anyways, I’m excited to take CNF with you, Julia, and you as well Daniel, next semester!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.