Amy Barnes’ Reflection on Writing

by Amy Barnes

Read her story Skim Coats here

This creative nonfiction (CNF) flash was written as part of a tribute issue to Meg Pokrass. I chose her “Love Street Blues” published at Fractured Lit as inspiration. The concrete mentions of stealing, smoking, and a dog further illuminated her story and hopefully mine, as life touchpoints. I found the combination of tangible and less concrete, imagination-filled details also colored and defined her visual artwork.

Adding those sensory details to guide the story were maybe the easier writing action – the C in CNF. The harder part of writing this flash were the NF elements, dealing with remembering the difficult moments and grief. As in many of my CNF or hybrid flashes, delving into the story behind the objects and characters was emotional. With the division into divided micro sections, I worked to convey that movement of time with the same characters and how things affected the narrator.

The best piece of advice I’ve gotten (from several editors) is to find the deeper story, the one you need to tell but might not know initially because you are hiding from it or it isn’t the rosy picture you remember. In writing CNF or essays, the first drafts may not be the story that needs to be told. It may be just a vehicle for getting some of the emotional backdrop down on the page.

For writers looking to explore difficult or simply emotional CNF, I would encourage them to approach the topic by writing down ALL of the ideas. Then take a look at what makes them feel uncomfortable or sad or nostalgic or happy. Write that story. Peel back the layers. Add your own touchpoints to ground the story. Write the essay that hurts or thrills your heart. If you don’t feel emotional resonance in your own story, your reader may not feel it either.

Amy Cipolla Barnes is the author of three collections: AMBROTYPES (word west,) “Mother Figures” ( ELJ, Editions) and CHILD CRAFT, forthcoming from Belle Point Press, She has words at The Citron Review, Spartan Lit, JMWW Journal, Janus Lit, Flash Frog, No Contact Mag, Leon Review, Complete Sentence, Gown Lawn, The Bureau Dispatch, Nurture Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit, McSweeney’s and many others sites. Her writing  has been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction and  long-listed for Wigleaf50 in 2021 and 2022. She’s a Fractured Lit Associate Editor, Gone Lawn co-editor, Ruby Lit assistant editor and reads for NFFD, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, Retreat West, The MacGuffin, and Narratively.

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