Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Writing in Between by Carol Jeffers #writing

Writing in Between
by Carol Jeffers
            I hear a mourning dove’s rustle in the tree outside our bedroom window. “Sunrise,” I yawn and pull up the covers. In the gray dawn between night and day, the bird calls to another somewhere across the condo complex. “I’m here,” comes the response and the two continue to chorus their reassurrances as I drift off in the time and space they have opened between night and day. I will hear the pair again at dusk. An evening vesper, a lullaby meant to soothe, to sing “Day is done, gone the sun….all is well, safely rest…”
            I like in-between places, those quivering, blurred places not clearly defined that add nuance and richness to human experience. The rich grays between black and white. Where rivers empty into seas. The moment a plane lifts off and begins its climb.
            I especially like the in-between places that are unmapped, territories hard to define or locate. They exist, though, and are revealed when dualistic pairs like the “subjective” and “objective” are forced apart, when the line between “truth” and “fiction” is erased. Spaces that, in the rupture, open up intriguing, sometimes awkward or jagged places that power explorations of meaning, another kind of truth. What is the meaning of life lived somewhere between the real and the surreal? While this may be appealing to some, it raises another question: How can we capture such a place?
            For me, the answer breathes in the oxygen of speculative nonfiction. This hybrid genre relies on imagination, invention, even fantasy to reveal a deeper truth. It takes creative nonfiction into a different place, and willfully sprawls across the line between truth and fiction.
            Writing my new book, The Question of Empathy: Searching for the Essence of Humanity, brought me face to face with the character of Empathy, and I knew this was to be a work of speculative nonfiction. Empathy rose up off the screen, demanded to talk and thrust me into an uncharted territory. Empathy told me it lived in the spaces between nature and culture, between self and other, competition and cooperation. I found it hovering between self-sacrifice and self-preservation, between truth and meaning, between the real and surreal.
            To understand more, I drew upon art and science, philosophy and psychology, explored the overlap between these traditions and the spaces between them, a thicket of competing theories and assumptions. No single discipline could answer all the questions about Empathy and its fleeting nature. What is it? How do we recognize it? Encourage it? Understand its role, its work in making us who we are. It took the space between them to even raise the thorniest question of all: If we are hard-wired and evolutionarily-designed for empathy, as the scientists tell us, then why, oh why aren’t we more empathic?
            Writing about it, trying to tell the story of this wandering, exasperating character pushed me to the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. I was now the one hovering in a challenging, jagged space between, and yet it felt right. I am reassured.
About the Author

Through her writing, Carol Jeffers blends narrative nonfiction and fiction to more fully explore the human condition. She is the author of works both in short- and long-form. Her forthcoming book, The Question of Empathy, was named a semi-finalist in the 2017 Pirates’ Alley William Faulkner Writing Competition (Walter Isaacson, judge). A Professor Emeritus of Art Education, her interest in empathic listening began in the classroom years ago when she and her university students explored works of art that served as personal metaphors. These experiences and related interactions with art, self, and others were the subjects of Carol’s academic writing published in refereed journals, edited volumes and a single-author book (Spheres of Possibility: Linking Service-Learning and the Visual Arts) during her university career.



About the Book:

Author: Carol Jeffers
Publisher: Koehler Books
Pages: 209
Genre: Creative Nonfiction/Speculative Nonfiction

What if we all had a power to connect with others, to understand what they are feeling, what they are thinking? What if such a power was flighty, unreliable, open to true understanding or total confusion? Would that make us better human beings? In The Question of Empathy, Carol Jeffers explores a power that exists today within each of us and its ability to connect and to delude.
Have you ever wondered about empathy, what it is and why it matters? What makes us human and capable of incredible caring, total savagery, or worse, complete indifference toward each other? Are you looking for ways to better understand yourself, the people around you and across the world? The Question of Empathy entreats you to explore this hard-wired capacity, not through rose colored glasses, but with an honest look at human nature. Philosophy and psychology, neuroscience and art lead the way along a journey of discovery into what makes us who we are and how we connect to others. It isn’t always easy, but then neither is real life. The Question of Empathy offers a roadmap.



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