Eaton Hamilton

the problem with being trans is cis people. The problem with being queer is straight people. The problem with being disabled is abled people. The problem with being Black is white people. In other words, prejudice.

Tag: cnf

CNF–dialogue, or no?

There’s been a lot of chatter on twitter about whether it’s okay to include dialogue in cnf. Some people have great recall for dialogue, some perfect. I have better than usual, myself, because of my face blindness. Ask me 30 seconds after seeing someone what they looked like or what they were wearing, and I generally couldn’t tell you, but ask me what someone said? Yes, I have excellent recall. Speech contains a lot of unspoken language, too, or sub-text, ones the speaker may not even be aware they’re using. Dialogue develops character in ways no other convention does. In my opinion, memoirs will suffer if there isn’t dialogue that is faithful to the emotional truth of the original convo.

Here is the start of a twitter thread you can search to join the discussion:

The first clue toward vivid writing

Do you wonder sometimes if writers you love, writers who come alive on the page, just have more innate gifts than you do? How do they get their sentences so crisp?

While I can’t answer for other writers, I know I spend a lot of time at the sentence level. You know those times when you need to cut 500 or 5000 words but you don’t want to change your story? Often, if you just take those words from the sentences, you’ll get where you’re going.

Here’s a sentence I wrote this year:

Our geese had begun to go after Scott as he toddled. 11 words.

Possible edit: The geese swarmed my brother. 5 words.

See what I did there? I made “had begun to go after” into “swarmed.” It’s more vivid. It uses fewer words. I excised the flab. So that’s what I’m always doing in editing. I look for words that aren’t necessary at the beginning and end of the sentence–and anywhere else inside it, too. I utilize more precise language. If it becomes shorter, that generally fits my purposes, whether or not that’s why I’m doing it. Besides sharpening your ms–putting it to the whetstone, if you will–this makes words fall off, and you’ll find yourself with a crisper, shorter manuscript at the end.

Scary times

oil stick painting by Eaton Hamilton 2018-2022

Omicron is raging and where I live, kids are going back to K-12 tomorrow without the proper mitigations to keep them safe. No HEPA filters, no CO2 monitors in every class, no N95 masks. It’s terrifying. At most, only partial vaccination status. Teachers too without N95s. I wish every one of them well.

Did I say I turfed my essay collection in Dec and decided to re-jig and re-write as a typical linear memoir? I’ve had a month with it now, and while I’ve had major health problems during this time, I manage to sit with the ms, now about 20K words, most days for at least a little while. That’s one of the benefits of being on perpetual lockdown, I guess, and it’s important to find satisfaction in that ugly situation where you can. So that’s me. Always a dollar short and a day late, but struggling along, doing my best.

I continue to be passionate about advocacy work and educating others about ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia and violence against women/enbies and children. I put a lot of time into twitter these days trying to undo some of the damage of government covid policies. BC is off the rails. I can’t get BC back on, but I can link to some of the people whose work very well could.

It’s been a great writing week; how about you?

painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2021; middle-aged Gertrude Stein

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but halfway through my memoir writing time, I decided to punt the book and start over. Something had been niggling at me for months, and that something was suggesting it wasn’t working. It finally barrelled to the front of my brain and I began over. I frequently do this with books, which is why I’ve written 3x more than I’ve tried to have published. I already have 10K words done. This week could be a washout, though, due to other challenges.

I hope your holidays were good ones. I don’t really celebrate Christmas, but this year is snowy and desperately cold and I’m certainly watching the weather, at least and hoping the power doesn’t go out. The wind just came up, one of the forecast gusts, I guess. Most of my time seems to be used bringing in hummingbird feeders to blow-dry them into thaw before setting them back out. The hummers–must be 20-30, all squabbling–are desperate.

As always you can follow daily paintings on IG at hamiltonart1000 and also join my Patreon for weekly chats on writing and painting (Hamilton Art)!

The New Outliers

please be in touch if this is your work

Lee Gutkind on the road to creative nonfiction at LitHub.

I would have liked to see this essay acknowledge the democratization of literature with the advent of the internet. Marginalized voices were, sometimes for the first time, able to add their voices to literature’s mix. We began to see lit from disabled, queer, trans, non-binary, autistic and biwoc folks. (I hate the word “confessional” applied to lit, as it transfers a sense of blame to authors for abuse, illness and so on. Most of the things that have gone awry for us are not our fault.)

Did you know that in order to get published, I had to enter and win literary contests? It was the only way I could get my pieces noticed, the only time my work was judged on merit rather than name and identity.

New essays up at Medium!

image by Jessica Poundstone for Gay Magazine

I’m moving some of my essays onto Medium for your reading pleasure! Here’s what’s there so far:

The Pleasure Scale, Gay Magazine, about how, as a near shut-in, I find pleasure

The Preludes to Assault, about a short encounter with Jian Ghomeshi, and sexual violence

The Nothing Between Your Legs, about my non-binary life as a girl in the 1950s; first published in Autostraddle

A Night of Art and Anti-Art, about a walk on beach one evening with Liz

“Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing”

 

Really, this is all you need to know to get started and keep going, by Shawna Kenney, from Brevity:

Never Call Yourself a Writer

 

 

CBC CNF longlist

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.31.21 PM

Happy to say that my piece “Battery” made it to this year’s CBC creative nonfiction shortlist. Sad to say that I had to withdraw it when it won Lit Pop. Congrats to everyone on the longlist and good luck to you all going forward!

 

The “ecstatic, shattered, staring beast” that pain makes of us

The Sunday Rumpus Essays are uniformly excellent writing about intriguing topics, and this week’s is no exception.  But it goes where most of us suffering with chronic pain fear to tread–into describing what it’s like to be sucked in and never back out of it.  Author Sonya Huber ‘s brilliant foray into metaphor:

The Lava Lamp of Pain

 

Felicitous Life and Karrie Higgins

JEHblackpaper7sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

There’s a group on FB called Binders.  If I hadn’t joined Binders, I wouldn’t have had my essay Things That Didn’t Happen come out on Manifest Station.  If it hadn’t come out there, I wouldn’t have seen that Karrie Higgins’ brilliant essay Strange Flowers had come out there, too.  You should read it.  You shouldn’t go another day in your life without reading it or knowing that Karrie Higgins is writing some of the best prose seen today.

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