The Good Thunder Reading Series held an event featuring author Toni Jensen that featured a workshop, craft talk and a reading from Jensen’s book “Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land.”
The workshop focused on helping students balance imagery and other language-based concerns with broader storytelling and narrative. Jensen said she wanted students to learn how to tell their stories. She chose to do this using a free-write exercise and some guided exercises. The activities were about how to shift the story’s language to reach different audiences.
“I think that, for creative nonfiction — where the creativity and where the balances come in — both can be from the language, the imagery and the natural world,” Jensen said.
The craft talk was done in partnership with the Kessel Peace Institute and discussed research and writing. The research portion talked researching social justice issues and how to make the world safer or better. Jensen said she chose to emphasize these subjects because of her past connections in experiencing gun violence, which her memoir covers.
For the final event of the night, Jensen read from her book. She read from the beginning of the book, and from an essay within the book that dealt with peace but also the violence she experienced. These excerpts showcased the story and highlighted what she went over in her workshop and craft talk.
“Even though I will be talking about my experiences, I want students to see how a person writes about those experiences,” Jensen said.
And writing about those experiences can be challenging. But Jensen said that to help her cope with writing about these issues, she “made sure to have a pattern in the workplace and [her] life,” as this kept her from not overdoing it.
“I balanced the content of my book with the scenery I remember. I use a lot of bird images, for example, because they are beautiful and a little funny too,” Jensen continued, “It’s also important to take care of yourself when writing about difficult things, especially if they are personal.”
Learning more about yourself will help you become a better writer, she said, but can also limit your writing. There are skills you build up as a writer and others where you just have to have confidence.
As part of being a good writer, Jensen said, “Trust your instinct but also get to know the people in your classes and workshops to have a few trusted people. And get comfortable being edited or critiqued early because it can help you be more honest with yourself.”
Header Photo: Toni Jensen, pictured above, hosted the most recent Good Thunder event. Her book, “Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land” speaks on what it means to exist as an Indigenous woman in America. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
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