English Reading Series author Jill Christman shares how she writes reflectively.
“There’s always a question at the center of everything I write,” said Jill Christman, author of If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays. Christman is an essayist and nonfiction writer who currently teaches at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She read three essays from her new book at the January 27 installment of the English Reading Series (ERS).
Christman’s writing is reflective, humorous, and raw as she digs into themes of love, motherhood, trauma, regret, and survival. In her essay “The Googly Eye” (the inspiration for her book’s cover design), Christman describes a day when her daughter, Ella, shoved a googly eye up her nose.
“The next morning at breakfast, I asked Ella why she did it,” Christman writes. “‘I thought it would be different,’ she said, looking sad. . . . Ella’s assessment explained a lifetime of my own biggest mistakes. I thought it would be different.” Christman’s writing deeply reflects on the choices and questions that have framed her life, as well as the lives of those around her, to find meaning.
Christman often balances reflective writing with narrative. She explained, “I’ll often write narrative as a way to find out what I’m trying to write about.” But, she noted, “if I arrive at an answer, I realize I haven’t written the essay carefully enough.” Through a combination of reflection and narrative, she uncovers the nuances of her questions and works toward the answers.
Many of the narratives and questions in Christman’s writing center on traumatic events in her childhood and young adult years. An ERS attendee asked how Christman knows how to write about those things. Quoting memoirist Patricia Hampl, Christman said, “We return to a moment or moments so that we might ask a question and move forward.” She continued, “I think about what it would mean to move forward from this moment and what questions I would be addressing in that place I’ve returned to.”
Christman’s exploration of questions related to life and love folds together to create a beautiful yet brutally honest perspective on the human experience. To read more of Christman’s work, visit her website, www.jillchristman.com. See the ERS website for more information on upcoming readings.