Discover Something

Tammy DietzBy Senior Nonfiction Editor

Tammy Dietz

Early on during graduate school, right here at Pacific University, I reluctantly attended a poetry lecture delivered by Ellen Bass. I say reluctantly because at the time I held deep-rooted and uninformed suspicions about the relevance of poetry to creative nonfiction (my area of focus). But Ellen single-handedly changed my mind about the connection between the genres and also gave some of the best nonfiction writing advice I have ever received. She said that great poems often reveal something surprising for the reader, or better yet, surprising for the writer.

If you discover something while writing, you’ll do well to help the reader experience that discovery with you. And then, they will experience something while reading.

Honest exploration of past events will give you the opportunity to see yourself in a different light. You are a character in the story you are authoring. As an author, you will have heightened awareness about that character who is—you.

It’s all very circular and sometimes mind-boggling, but if you are doing this with an open heart, you will learn something about yourself. I promise. And when you do, tell or show us what you learned. Reveal your character’s vulnerability and capacity for change. Let the author be the voice of authority. Let the reader in on your discovery and you will earn their trust.