Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Journal of the Plague Year

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
Being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London. Never made public before. (Daniel Defoe, "A Journal of the Plague Year")
Daniel Defoe is best known for his novel Robinson Crusoe. But he was a prolific writer of more than 300 works on politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He wrote about everything that drew his interest, so--of course--when the plague began to threaten Londoners, he decided to remain in the city and chronicle its progress.

As deaths began to be reported, Londoners of 1665 reacted much as we in the U.S. have reacted to early reports of  "a corona virus" from other parts of the world--initial concern, then forgetting about it, reading more specific information about "COVID-19," but raising our hopes again and back to life as usual. Until it was upon us.

Well, it's here, and while self-isolating to help flatten the curve (two phrases most of us had never uttered before last week), things can be a little too quiet. So why not use the time to write some creative nonfiction?

We can learn from those who suffered the AIDS plague, of which Andrew Sullivan writes, "Like wars, plagues can make us see where we are, shake us into a new understanding of the world, reshape our priorities, and help us judge what really matters and what actually doesn't." Many good fiction, nonfiction and poetic works came from writers affected by and/or documenting, "a body of work that educates even as it confronts . . .."

Interestingly, long before there were rumors of the scary year to come, we at Bacopa Literary Review decided to invite literary essays (nature, travel, medical, spiritual, food writing) in our Creative Nonfiction category, as well as personal memoir.

The literary quality of writing is still primary to us, with emphasis on the word literary. As noted in my first year as Senior Editor, creative nonfiction is in some ways like jazz, fact-based writing that metaphorically has the quality of ragtime or classic, bebop or swing, the blues or even a cross-rhythm--in other words, a moving inner voice.

Good creative nonfiction can be as experimental as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact. It is writing-of-the-real that incorporates the styles and elements of any good writing such as sense of place, voice, and character development.

Maybe you'll win the $300 First Prize or $100 Second Prize
in one of our five genres!

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