Literature: Creative Nonfiction
For a while, Kathy Maas attended a monthly writer’s group that met at Panera Bread to casually discuss the craft. It wasn’t a workshop. The object wasn’t to critique or even to share one’s writing. Still, she felt some self-imposed pressure.
“I started to realize that I hadn’t written anything in the longest time,” says Maas, of Hockessin. “And a few writers were saying how stories just gush out of them and they can’t sit down often enough to write all this stuff down because it’s pouring out of every cell. I just felt that I can’t be attending these meetings anymore until I start creating.”
She stopped going to them -- for a long time. Then, about a month ago, she returned, having written enough recently to feel more comfortable discussing writing.
When she applied for a Division fellowship, Maas submitted essays that included character sketches and reflections on “everyday stuff.” She loves to observe and analyze “the nano” in people. She describes herself as shy and particularly sensitive.
“Watching people’s little movements,” Maas says, "I’m very in tune with all the little tiny things of human interaction, and I think that’s where some of my writing would spring from. I love the 'nano' life.”
She says she leads a relatively uneventful life, so when she experiences something that moves her, she jots down the most relevant details. The notes then sit untouched until she figures out the angle of her approach. And then it happens.
“It’ll just be a time when I feel it inside of me and it’s ready to come out,” Maas says, “and I’ll pretty much write the whole thing. I don’t know where it comes from, and I wish it would come much more often.”
She had written a few things since college -- she worked for an advertising agency and for a bank doing advertising copywriting -- but Maas started writing personal essays when her mother died of cancer 11 years ago.
“It was such a painful time,” she says, “and I didn’t know what else to do but pour out my heartache via writing.”
She took an online course in creative nonfiction. On the third assignment, the teacher returned her essay, unedited, in a group email, saying that Maas had insulted her by submitting a fiction piece. The piece was nonfiction.
“I think some popular writers take more of a creative license to fill in some blanks,” Maas says. “I read these memoirs, with gobs and gobs of dialogue from when they were 5 years old. And I think, how could anybody remember that stuff? You must be making some of it up. So I’m really careful with that. I haven’t put my work out there much at all; I tend to think about a lot how what I write will affect people.”
She is planning to pair her public reading with a selection of readings culled from entries by the public centered on anger, its roots and its resolution. If the logistics work out, the event might travel to each of Delaware’s three counties in a fashion similar to “The Moth.”