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Down the Rabbit Hole: Craft Notes

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Jake Wolff recently won the Internet.

Wolff, a creative writing professor, editor and director of The Florida Review, and author of The History of Living Forever, nailed the structure of many creative nonfiction essays in a single tweet.

For a prime example of this structure, please see my essay, “In Celebration of the Common Riffraff,” which swerves from medieval grave robbers to the cotton farms of south Georgia. I’m primarily a fiction writer. With creative nonfiction, I do my best. Wolff’s tweet made me laugh, but it also made me think about the need for nuance.

Another author who recently made me think about the craft of writing was Sarah Penner, author of the acclaimed forthcoming novel, The Lost Apothecary. As a presenter at the 2020 remote Florida Writers Association conference, Penner walked us through detailed, specific steps for taping together two storylines from different time periods.

In a dual timeline novel, she explained, the connective tissue between the two eras needs to be something more exciting than “finding grandma’s diary in the attic.” In Penner’s case, she became fascinated with mudlarking (scavenging for valuables in river mud), studied it, and got inspired to write The Lost Apothecary.

After listening to Penner, I decided to reimagine Angel Dog Finds Me – a novel I had set aside in order to complete Seeing Gethin – by turning it into a dual timeline novel. The historic time period would be early 1900s. The connective tissue? Precious redware pottery created by a woman from one of the amazing Pueblo communities of New Mexico.

I’ve gone straight down the old rabbit hole. I’m both terrified and excited. Will it work? Can I do it? I'll find out.

Note: The Rabbit Hole Gallery image at the top of this post was captured by MattBarlow92 and downloaded by me from Wikimedia Commons. I unfortunately can't figure out how to attach a caption to the photo.

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