Ground Story, Sky Story

November 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

168The brilliant Stephanie G’Schwind weighs in at Essay Daily this morning on what she has learned reading creative nonfiction as editor of Colorado Review.  She begins with her idea of the parallel narratives that run through many of her favorite essays:

I tend to think of these narrative lines as the story on the ground and the story in the sky. Sometimes the story in the sky is closely related to the story on the ground, other times it may seem unrelated, almost random. A seemingly natural tendency has been for the parallel narrative to be research-oriented: astronomy, arachnology, historical events, etc., for example. But throughout the essay, the two narratives riff on each other, speak to each other (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly), creating resonance, and in the end come together in such a way that they are greater than merely their sum—and we will have moved from a personal to a universal experience.

After a few well-chosen examples, she reminds us of a metaphor Eileen Pollack has shared:

She talked about the narrative—the here is what happened to me—as being like an album on a turntable. She then suggested that the central question, the reason for writing the essay, was the needle. Music, she said, is created in the friction between the question and the narrative. I really love this metaphor, and it’s easy to spin it out further: when you apply the needle to the album too timidly, it doesn’t catch and you get no music; apply it too aggressively, and you get that awful scratchy sound.

You can, and should, read the full essay here.  Essay Daily will be asking a number of literary editors to weigh in on what excites them in a nonfiction essay over the soming months, including Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore. Stay tuned, y’all.


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