Thieving the Past: Integrating History into Creative Work (Creative)

Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing

Jennifer Sears (New York City College of Technology-CUNY)

This creative session will explore the craft of creating historically informed works of fiction, poetry, digital arts, and other media. Creative writers regularly draw from the past to deepen context, to expand possibilities for material and subject matter, and to potentially illuminate connections between past and present. However, the technical process of integrating historical elements creates many challenges. This session will ask creative writers to share methods they’ve developed to make the past resonate, to energize and pattern historical detail, to maintain an authentic voice, and to make contemporary readers emotionally invest in their material.

Significantly, we will also consider the important question, what responsibilities do writers have to perceived historical facts or “truths”? As we develop new work that re-envisions past events or ideas and create possibilities for broadening our understanding of history from a wider variety of voices and perspectives, what liberties can or should contemporary writers take? What elements must remain? Participants will read from their own work, discuss their creative and research process, and engage in a brief craft discussion of the historically-driven novel Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, the NeMLA 2021 keynote speaker and the focus of this year’s "NeMLA Reads Together.”

This creative session calls for writers who have drawn from history and grappled with techniques to energize historical detail, maintain authentic voice, and make the past resonate with contemporary readers. Participants will read from their work, discuss their creative and research process, and engage in a craft-focused discussion of Jennifer Egan’s historical novel, Manhattan Beach.