“TAKE ME AWAY” IMMEDIATELY DREW ME IN, then mesmerized me in its wave-like motion of telling its story. As evidenced in this piece, recent research has confirmed that storytelling continues to impact us far more than polemic or dogmatic writing. The writer’s skill in tracing the small and large moments of this story’s unfolding enables the reader to experience them too.
Creative non-fiction offers an almost unlimited array of stylistic and structural possibilities. This is its strength but also its vexing challenge. In this kind of shorter form, it is crucial to hold the focus in a dynamic, steady manner and graciously accept the limitations a maximum word count imposes. Although the topic of this piece is profound on a personal, socio-political, faith-based level, Jagtar Kaur Atwal has resisted overstretching.
With shorter creative non-fiction pieces, it is even more challenging to discern how to sustain a reader’s attention. When we falter as CNF writers, our readers’ retention simply does not occur. We’ve lost them. The pacing in “Take Me Away” is excellent. We never skim the writer’s skillful sentences when they are comprised of detail, backstory, evocative environment/context and expressive dialogue as well as inner reflection and thought. We remain on the sharp blade of this narrative just as the narrator does.
“Take Me Away” took me somewhere I’ve never quite been. The writer’s quiet inquiry into received notions, attitudes, expectations and shifting values changed and enriched me as a reader.
Suzanne Nussey’s form is a perfect mirror of the nature of the recalled vignettes that haunt and shape us over the decades of our personal and collective lives.
In Marion Agnew’s “Hours of Daylight,” a story of serious memory loss and its profound impact on family, is movingly bookended by the opening and closing sections about her mother’s brightness as a child and an honorary math award given in her name.
Robin K. MacDonald’s quietly elegant sentences take us into the sensate nature of the north and the disparate consciousness (and tender connection) of an Indigenous lover and settler in “Roadkill Heart.”