Kudos to the Loft

The Loft Literary Center hosted an energizing Creative Non-Fiction Conference last weekend, March 11-13. I was thrilled with the outcome of my own session, “Ghostly Obsessions: Writing from History.” History has not been an easy sell among my Loft students. Historical research is often perceived as adding dry context to a memoir holding desperately to its immediate, up-to-date voice. So when I proposed the session, I envisioned it as a conversation with the 4 or 5 people who might show up.
33 people registered for it in advance, and it was scheduled for the Loft’s auditorium. How would I handle a conversation of that size? Would people come expecting an instructive lecture and handouts?
The first session of the conference, a conversation on stage between writers Toi Derricotte and Patricia Weaver Francisco, inspired me to try that format. So I first told my story of ghostly obsessions and historical hitchhiking (more on these concepts eventually) and truncated projects that had turned out to be of impossible epic proportions. Then I invited others up one at a time to tell about their research underway and the challenges it posed.
The format worked beautifully. People volunteered eagerly, told about some truly exciting historical research and writing in progress, and got responses they needed from the audience. I came away with new energy and resolve to pursue my own project.
One of my frequent Loft students, Candace Dow, had the final word on the conference, as we stood at the top of the stairs preparing to leave. “This was just like a revival meeting,” she said. “I feel revived!”

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