THE MULTIPLICITY OF VOICE: A Conversation with SONYA HUBER, JILL CHRISTMAN, and JODY KEISNER
A Room of One's Own welcomes Sonya Huber, Jill Christman, and Jody Keisner for a discussion on the multiplicity of a writer's voice. In this discussion, the authors will explore how a writer has many voices which they develop over a lifetime of writing practice and which are influenced by privilege, race, gender identity, place of origin, (dis)ability, and more factors.
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Sonya Huber is the author of seven books, including the award-winning essay collection on chronic pain, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, the new book Supremely Tiny Acts: A Memoir in a Day, and the forthcoming Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto. Her other books include Opa Nobody, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, and The Backwards Research Guide for Writers. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, and other outlets. She teaches at Fairfield University and in the Fairfield low-residency MFA program. More at www.www.sonyahuber.com.
Jill Christman is a 2020 NEA Prose Fellow and the author of two memoirs, Darkroom: A Family Exposure (winner of the AWP Prize for CNF) and Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood. Her essays have appeared in magazines such as Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, and O, The Oprah Magazine—and her new collection, If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays, will be released by the University of Nebraska Press on September 1, 2022. A senior editor for River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and executive producer of the podcast Indelible: Campus Sexual Violence, she teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in creative nonfiction writing and literary editing at Ball State University. Visit her at www.jillchristman.com and on Twitter @jill_christman
Jody Keisner is the author of Under My Bed and Other Essays. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Los Angeles Review of Books, Fourth Genre, The Normal School, Brevity, Women’s Studies, and many other literary journals and magazines. She writes for AARP’s The Girlfriend, and is the editor of The Linden Review, a journal of creative nonfiction focused on health. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Learn more at www.jodykeisner.com.
If This Were Fiction is a love story—for Jill Christman’s long-ago fiancé, who died young in a car accident; for her children; for her husband, Mark; and ultimately, for herself. In this collection, Christman takes on the wide range of situations and landscapes she encountered on her journey from wild child through wounded teen to mother, teacher, writer, and wife. In these pages there are fatal accidents and miraculous births; a grief pilgrimage that takes Christman to jungles, volcanoes, and caves in Central America; and meditations on everything from sexual trauma and the more benign accidents of childhood to gun violence, indoor cycling, unlikely romance, and even a ghost or two. Playing like a lively mixtape in both subject and style, If This Were Fiction focuses an open-hearted, frequently funny, clear-eyed feminist lens on Christman’s first fifty years and sends out a message of love, power, and hope.
Though it is foundational to the craft of writing, the concept of voice is a mystery to many authors, and teachers of writing do not have a good working definition of it for use in the classroom. Written to address the vague and problematic advice given to writers to “find their voice,” Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto recasts the term in the plural to give writers options, movement, and a way to understand the development of voice over time. By redefining “voice,” Sonya Huber offers writers an opportunity not only to engage their voices but to understand and experience how developing their range of voices strengthens their writing. Weaving together in-depth discussions of various concepts of voice and stories from the author’s writing life, Voice First offers a personal view of struggles with voice as influenced and shaped by gender, place of origin, privilege, race, ethnicity, and other factors, reframing and updating the conversation for the twenty-first century. Each chapter includes writing prompts and explores a different element of voice, helping writers at all levels stretch their concept of voice and develop a repertoire of voices to summon.
In Under My Bed and Other Essays, Jody Keisner searches for the roots of violence and fear that afflict women, starting with the working-class Midwestern family she was adopted into and ending with her own experience of mothering daughters. As a young adult living alone for the first time, she begins a nighttime ritual of checking under her bed each night, not sure who she’s afraid of finding. An intruder? A monster? Her father? Now a wife and mother, her fears have matured and the boogeyman under the bed has shape-shifted, though its shapes are no less frightening—a young aunt’s drowning, the “chest chomp” in the classic horror movie The Thing, a diagnosis of a chronic autoimmune disease, the murder of a young college student, an eccentric grandmother’s belief in reincarnation and her dying advice: “Don’t be afraid.” In essays both literary and experimental, Keisner illustrates the tension between the illusion of safety, our desire for control, and our struggle to keep the things we fear from reaching out and pulling us under.