by Debbie Stearns
I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful event on the evening of Thursday, March 8, 2012. An evening of creative writing was held at the Chico Center. Butte College associate faculty Sarah Knowlton, Jen White, and Corey Gruber each read one of their literary works.
Sarah Knowlton read a creative non-fiction piece that focused on hitchhikers. Sarah spoke of the proverbial angels on her shoulders when she saw a young woman hitchhiking and the conflict she felt as she wrestled with whether or not to pull over and give her a ride. The battle of right versus wrong waged along with a second battle between compassion and fear.
With infused humor, she told the tale of her own experience that began with her car breaking down. A seedy-looking character in a beat-up truck pulled over to assist her. Sarah’s fear escalated when she saw that he wore a hook in place of one of his hands. Despite her terror that the man could be a serial killer, she accepted a ride from him to Paradise and all ended well.
Sarah had the audience laughing as she exaggerated what had happened, vividly describing the scenes, and how she dealt with her irrational fears. The story went full circle as she pondered what might have happened to the young hitchhiker she had seen and hoped she had made it to her destination safe and sound.
Corey Gruber read a short story he had written about addiction. His story was told in the first person, describing the thoughts and behaviors of the addict. As the audience listened to the story, they were immersed in the harsh life of an addict, its unpredictability, its darkness, and its pain.
Corey’s piece was very complex as it included many situations and scenes. This dark tale seemed real as Corey described the addict’s struggles, so real that I had to separate myself from the story several times to remind myself that Corey was the author, not the addict.
Jen White read a creative non-fiction piece that began with the common apple as it relates to life. Referring to human biology as well discussing scientific evidence, Jen discussed human reproduction. The story compared women to God in the fact that only females have the ability to give birth.
During her story, Jen discussed women’s roles in society. She touched on the fact that women have historically been second to men both economically and socially. The story also brought the audience back to the biblical times of Adam and Eve. The tale left everyone wondering if Adam really did have a rebellious, feminist first wife named Lilith.
Jen ended her story with a heartfelt message to her teenaged daughter, who was present in the audience, with hopes that she would not strangled by the chains that bind women. While Jen read this part of her story, she fought back tears as she conveyed her personal message to her daughter by imparting some of her own wisdom through her story. This beautiful, thought-provoking tale captivated the audience and, toward the end, brought tears to several listeners.
This was the first literary reading I have ever attended. It has fed the literary fire burning within me, a fire that seems so out of control and needs to be reigned in. I have so many ideas about what I could write and would like to write. However, I don’t know where to begin. I need to begin to focus. These readings have provided insight into a genre of writing that interests me – creative non-fiction. I came away from them with renewed spirit. This was definitely not the final time I will enthusiastically immerse myself in the literary world of my colleagues.