Writing What You Know: Using Autobiography and Your Roots in Fiction

Flannery O’Connor famously said, “The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” And then there’s the old adage to write what you know. Which is great — but as fiction writers, it’s sometimes safer to fictionalize what you know. In this workshop we’ll talk about how to take real life experience and fictionalize it. Looking at published texts and with in-class writing, we’ll discover how to use the truth to go into imaginary places. Exercises will involve responding to published stories and novel excerpts, looking into our own roots and histories, and using landscape to inspire new fiction based on our experiences.

Nina McConigley

Nina McConigley is the author of the story collection Cowboys and East Indians, which won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. She was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. Nina holds an MFA from the University of Houston and an MA from the University of Wyoming. She has been a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and held scholarships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for The Best New American Voices. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Orion, Salon, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, and The Asian American Literary Review among others. She lives in Laramie, Wyoming and teaches at the University of Wyoming and at the MFA program at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.

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