“Every day is a new ‘now.’ Our work as writers is incremental and cyclical and cumulative. Every time we sit down to write, it’s like improvisational work, which is not to say we pluck something out of nothing. It means we awaken and mingle many somethings, many nows, that we filed away in recesses of our brain some time ago and can now bring front-of-mind and to the page. There’s no magic door or finish line; there’s only these breakthroughs and the belief that a nurtured writing practice will bear fruit in its own time.” -Cinelle Barnes
On Wednesday, September 14th, Cinelle Barnes is teaching a class for the WLT called “The Nonfiction Book Proposal: The Basics & Beyond.“ In this class you’ll learn key information on how to make your memoir proposal stand out.
Here’s what Cinelle had to share with us:
Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?
Cinelle Barnes: I was born and raised in the Philippines, and adopted into the United States as a teenager. Through all the moves and migrations, books and magazines were a constant. I was the kid whose parents were always late to school pick-up and who had to spend endless after-school hours in the library. Some of those afternoons, a teacher (Ms. Ched) would keep me company and write stories with me. And so I’ve been writing since I was seven because of her, and editing since joining my school’s Media and Journalism Club. I went on to write and edit for the school newspaper at my high school and college. I went from being a fashion school student to a journalism student to a creative nonfiction student at Converse University’s low-residency MFA program, and have mostly been writing essays and memoirs since: Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir and Malaya: Essays on Freedom. I also recently edited the anthology A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South.
Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?
CB: Reading, reading, reading. Going on walks and activating bilateral brain activity. Reading previous work. Making a list of milestones and breakthroughs I’ve had, so I can remember what I’m capable of. Talking to friends, writers and not. Remembering who my audience is and that I don’t write for everyone. Staying playful and trying out new forms, new modes. Always believing that my best writing is ahead of me.
Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?
CB: I don’t think there’s an “it” as much as there is a “now.” There’s something I can learn through reading or practicing now. I can untangle this particular thought now. I can aim for clarity in this way now. I can learn or relearn or unlearn a linguistic pattern or cadence or sentence structure now. I can pace my character development in this way now. Every day is a new “now.” Our work as writers is incremental and cyclical and cumulative. Every time we sit down to write, it’s like improvisational work, which is not to say we pluck something out of nothing. It means we awaken and mingle many somethings, many nows, that we filed away in recesses of our brain some time ago and can now bring front-of-mind and to the page. There’s no magic door or finish line; there’s only these breakthroughs and the belief that a nurtured writing practice will bear fruit in its own time.
Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?
CB: Practice makes practice, not perfect. Know your audience. Writing to everyone means writing to no one.
Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?
CB: Turning an idea into a concept, and communicating that concept effectively to the prospective audience of your book proposal: an agent or an editor.
Click here to learn more about Cinelle Barnes’ upcoming class.