ford oneford twoSpring quarter is off to a great start and so is the Ivy Hall Writers Series. Our first guest was writer, editor and speaker, Ashley C. Ford, who led workshops in two writing classes and attended a dinner with students and faculty. In addition to her freelance assignments, Ford is writing a memoir, is co-editing an anthology with Roxane Gay, and recently accepted a position with Conde Nast Entertainment. Here are a few valuable tips she shared:

“It’s okay to acknowledge you don’t have full memory.” Investigate yourself. From Facebook posts to old emails, you’ve left a trail of information behind. Don’t be shy about interviewing people in your life to fill in the gaps.  Write the gap. Just say, “This made me feel…” Sometimes writing about what you don’t remember can be impactful.

“Everything is not always a story…until you make it a story.” That’s the writer’s job, to tell the story and keep someone (even yourself) reading, turning pages. What you remember is likely the most important element of the story you’re telling.  What matters is what you write, and that it connects with the reader.  Remember you’re not going to get it all right. You’re still human.

“People you love are not always people you loved in the moment.” Heroes and villains don’t exist. We can write bad and good moments, but everyone has a bit of both. Take stock, be honest, don’t blindside anyone close to you, and try not to be melodramatic. Just because someone remembers something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s true. At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be your story. Write your perspective.

“Figure out who your dream reader is.” You know, the oh-my-gosh-I’ve-been-waiting-for-this type of reader. Your dream reader will be motivation for how you write and how you think about language.

“What’s a good entry point for freelancing? Publish good work.” Being published really, really helps. It shows editors that you can meet deadlines and accept being edited. You have to be out there. No one is going to come looking for you.

“Don’t punish yourself for stuff you’ve written before.” Writing well comes with practice. Keep writing. You’ll make mistakes. Try not to have the same problems over and over. Learn from the mistakes or you’ll be paralyzed by them.

“Don’t get trapped in the media-driven ‘hot-take’ culture.” A lot of people write at the very moment something happens and often often write very similar pieces. How can you avoid getting trapped in this? Wait and see what everyone else didn’t say. Then your writing won’t be based off of a sound bite.

Thanks to Ashley C. Ford for spending time with us and to M.F.A. writing student Shelley Danzy for writing this blog post.


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