Nan Cuba is the author of the award-winning novel, Body and Bread and founder of Gemini Ink, a San Antonio-based nonprofit literary center. In addition to being a novelist, Nan has worked as an investigative journalist, publishing articles in LIFE, and D Magazine. Other works have appeared in the Antioch Review, the Harvard Review, and storySouth, among others. You can find out more about Nan on her website. If you’d like to find out more about Gemini Ink, you can visit the website here.
On August 23, Nan will be teaching a class for WLT about how to work life experiences into fiction. Visit the class page and read the interview below to learn more.
Scribe: Can you tell us a little bit about the mission of Gemini Ink and what kind of programming and resources the organization offers?
Nan Cuba: Gemini Ink began in 1992. A friend and I started what became Dramatic Reader’s Theater, shows of actors performing great pieces of literature. I left as executive director in 2003, but the organization has always served readers and writers, hoping to persuade the masses that well-crafted stories, poems, and essays should be valued. Gemini Ink has three major programs: Community Writing Classes, which, like the Writers’ League of Texas, offers workshops and classes that create a space for serious artistic, intellectual, and community-spirited dialogue outside of the academic context; Writers in Communities, which sends professional writers into diverse community settings — such as shelters, schools, neighborhood centers, and detention facilities — to work alongside students of all ages, needs, interests and abilities; and the Autograph Series, which presents writers of national and international stature, such as Margaret Atwood, Grace Paley, Ernest Gaines, and Ha Jin, in free public performances followed by audience Q&A and book signings.
Scribe: How has your time as an investigative journalist influenced your fiction?
NC: I had no training as a journalist, so several patient editors taught me the rudiments. Besides the expected education about meeting deadlines, pitching to an audience, mastering language, and shaping an article, my investigative work is the inspiration for my new novel, tentatively titled, He Didn’t Kill No One but Mom. In the mid-eighties, I bumbled into the story about Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer who confessed to hundreds of crimes and then recanted, resulting in Governor Bush commuting his death sentence. My novel, of course, is fiction, but it’s loosely based on the fact that a man with a limited IQ could cause such mayhem.
Scribe: Your novel, Body and Bread deals with death and the process of grieving. As a writer, do you think of fictionalizing your life experiences as more of a way to enrich your writing or more as a way of putting together a personal narrative as a kind of therapy?
NC: I don’t think of fiction writing as therapy. My only goal is to discover a truth. The only way to do that when using autobiographical material is to reach into uncomfortable places and be honest about what happened. You must be objective and sympathetic toward all the characters. This isn’t a place for revenge or sentimentality. The class I’m going to teach will introduce techniques for accomplishing that.
Scribe: What do you hope your students take away from this class?
NC: I want them to leave with at least one story idea and an understanding of several ways to complete it.
Click here for more information and to register for Nan’s workshop.