telling a true story



“I dare you to stop counting and start acting. To stop pleasing and start defying. I dare you to trust what you know. The second wind is beyond data. It is past pain. it is found in the bloodstream and cells of the women and men who purged the poison of their perpetrators, who walked through the cancer, the nightmares. The second wind is coming from your body, it’s in your mouth, it’s in the way you move your hips.” ~ Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” ~ Chinua Achebe

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” ~ bell hooks

After the read around last week, I was excited to get back to our writing group and hear what our writers had to say about their experience. What was their story of the night? Our group’s theme for the night was narrative so it was an easy transition and it also opened the same dialogue we always open: the opportunity for everyone to tell their version of their own story.

What happened surprised me. We had a much smaller group than we usually do right after read arounds and the mood was somber. This happens every now and then – the environment in the prison alters everyone’s feelings and our group experiences some needed quiet. Or the subject matter brings up difficult stories and keeps everyone feeling weighted, their words freighted on the page. I can never tell walking in the door and I can’t touch a majority of their experience.

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creating a narrative

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Many of us are familiar with the basic, linear plot line: beginning, middle, end. There is a start, a problem, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, a finish. The central character, the community is altered, thrown through a series of events that unfold in a linear way. This is a very basic idea.

A couple weeks ago, I went in and encouraged everyone to write stories about solace, about times when the world fell away and they felt safe. Many of them said that those times were rare. When we came back together, one woman said it was hard to tell stories when most of the time, her stories started in the middle and jumped all over the place. They bent time around central ideas and she thought they would be difficult to understand.

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