This program is made possible through a generous gift from Ruth and Russell Bolton
in conjunction with the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flashy Nonfiction

I’m not going to lie; I was nervous as I walked up to Honors Hall on Tuesday. This being my first Bolton, I didn’t know what to expect. What if no one showed up? What if everyone hated the prompt? What if everyone was just plain mean?

My fears were quickly put aside as I stood in the RFL’s book-lined living room. A girl walked in, holding a notebook to her chest. “I can’t wait to write,” she said. I knew then that everything would be fine.

Six students put their homework aside for an hour and joined us at the dining room table. Eating cake and cookies, we wrote in between bites. The topic: dorm life. The rules: 50 words or less. Flash nonfiction. We discussed the importance of each word in writing, and I reminded them how flash fiction or nonfiction makes the writer pay attention to each word. When dealing with only a few words, each word has to carry its own weight. Frivolous words get thrown out quicker than a bowling ball in a sinking canoe.

The time came to share, and after the first student read, I wondered if they even needed any reminders on writing. They covered it all: roommate admiration, budding romance at an open mic, the enticement of chanting coming through open vents, the description of a flyer on a wall, the wonderment of living alone, the dangerous ground of hair spray in bathrooms amongst girls. Each of them reminded me of something that I forgot to mention in my mini-lecture: the importance of a final line. All of them had one final poignant sentence. Yes, I know, the whole students teaching the teacher something has been done, but at times clichés are true.

I left that night almost skipping out of the dorm. After all, any night that combines writing and cake is a pretty successful night in my book.

Next up: Fiction on October 4th.

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