Attending the Writer to Writer event last Tuesday was a breath of fresh air in the midst of a very busy week. As soon as I stepped into Literati, I was overwhelmed by the warm fuzzies I always get in an independent bookstore. Upstairs, I bought the best tea latte of all time and took my seat: a rickety, high-backed wooden chair near the front but not in the front (I’m pretty fearless but sitting in the front row of a writer’s talk is where I draw the line). The room soon grew crowded, but a cozy, comfortable kind of crowded. It was nice to see how many people turned out to listen to someone talking about writing!
Heather Ann Thompson’s insights about writing really encouraged, inspired, and educated me. I appreciated her perspective about writing sensitive material that was engaging and accurate without being sensationalized. That’s a difficult line to walk, and I think I’d need to revise about twenty times if I were to write a passage on prison torture, but her advice gave me the confidence to at least feel like I could attempt it. I think her most impactful comment arose when asked about confidence as a writer. Her commentary on “being your own source” and being confident enough if your research to express it freely really spoke to me. Just a day prior, I had turned in the longest research paper I’ve ever written (twenty-one pages!), and still felt a little unsure about my ability to draw original conclusions from my research. Her words echoed what I probably already knew: you know this information, now do something with it!
The interview left me wishing I had enough cash on me to buy the book! I have been interested in prison systems, mass incarceration, and the prison industrial complex for a while, and Thompson’s Blood In The Water seems like an interesting and informative read. I can’t wait to check it out from the library and see how she presents her research in an engaging narrative style. This is another thing I was left wondering: how to combine research and narrative effectively. I’d love to try my hand at it someday, and I bet I’ll gain a great genre model from Thompson’s book!