quaranTEEN voices Writing Prompt: ‘Something True’
August 10, 2020
Guest author Kelly Jensen joins us for this week’s quaranTEEN voices gathering! Kelly’s most recent book, (Don’t) Call Me Crazy is a collection of art and essays that aim to launch powerful and important conversations about mental health. Her other anthologies include Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World and the forthcoming Body Talk. She is also the co-host of Hey YA, a podcast about young adult books. Kelly is a former teen librarian who worked at several public libraries before eventually becoming a writer and editor.
I write nonfiction, meaning that the focus is always on something true, be it an experience I’ve had, from research I’ve done, or a combination of the two. It’s a simplification to say this, but I see nonfiction as two categories: informational and narrative. Informational is the kind of nonfiction that you see all around you all the time and may not think about much. Think: recipes, directions, dictionaries, menus. Narrative nonfiction tells a story. Think: biographies, essays, poetry. A lot of times, nonfiction is presented as something formulaic, but it’s not. It’s dynamic, and you can get extremely creative with writing the truth.
Start by thinking about one of your favorite experiences. It can be a vacation you took, the time your friend came over and you marathon watched a show on Netflix, or the day you aced that test you’d studied hard for. If it helps, you can create a list of great experiences to get your brain working.
Then, choose a format of nonfiction you don’t usually write in—a diary entry, a play script, a menu, a poem, an encyclopedia entry, or any of the ideas in this document.
You’re going to take one of those favorite experiences and write about them in that new format.
For example: you might write a recipe for how you aced that test or you may choose to write about your friend coming over to hang out in the form of a script, as if you might perform it on stage.
Create your own anthology!
I love getting to edit anthologies, wherein I’m able to work with so many amazing writers on topics that are near and dear to my heart. This exercise lets you play the role of creator and editor of your own anthology.
What topic are you passionate or curious about? That will be the theme of your anthology, and from there, write the introduction to your anthology and why it’s important. Feel free to use your creative skills here—it doesn’t need to be an essay or anything formal.
Once you have your topic and your introduction, develop the table of contents. What kinds of work do you want to include? What will your sections look like or dive into? Who would be your dream people to work with and what would they write about (dream big, friends!).
If you’re feeling especially inspired, maybe even draw what the cover of your anthology might look like!
Let yourself get creative here. Maybe you want an anthology all about how much you love Taylor Swift’s new album and each section of your anthology includes essays about each track on it. Maybe you want to create an anthology about how incredible cheese is, and each section is dedicated to a different part of the world and their cheese specialties. Maybe you create a poetry anthology all about how people have survived during a global pandemic.
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