Braiding ‘Em

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image via aucegypt.edu

 

Some years ago I was a writer in residence at a college in eastern North Carolina – there were a group of us, it turned out – with one outlier. I don't mean someone who was a terrible writer, nor a ringer. Instead, she was a non-fiction writer among liars (fiction writers). Somewhere in the course of our time together, the woman, Susan, mentioned braided essays several times. I'm usually good at picking up such things contextually, but I wasn't able to in that case, so I had to humble myself and ask her. 

Her explanation was slightly different from what you'll find on the Net, but this is the idea: You tell several stories, often three, which are disparate, but woven together by a common idea or theme. Or some such. You get the idea. In fact, if you read Creative NonFiction magazine, you'll see quite a few of these.

I've always been fascinated by the various structures of creative writing, so I set my fiction aside later on that year, and tried on the braided essay for size. I wrote three of 'em in short order, on different aspects of my life, on different times in my life, phases, if you will. Happy at conquering this nonfiction form, I proudly put them in the mail to various litmags. No one wanted them; in fact no one even gave me an encouraging word. So I trudged back to fiction, and whenever I came across a publication that sounded right for my essays, I'd slip one in the mail. Still no takers. I edited the pieces and re-edited 'em, as my writing (and editorial) skills grew. Years went by.

Finally, this week I had a taker, and I received a nice word of praise, to boot. The word "exquisite" was used. 

The lesson in this? Well, there are several; among them, these well-traveled homilies:  Experiment with new forms. A great idea deserves great editing, once committed to the page (or screen). Don't give up on a piece you believe in. Somewhere there's a home for any well-written piece.

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