My name is Jennifer Lauck and I’m the New York Times Bestselling author of the memoirs Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me the Way, and Found. I’ve also written dozens of essays that have been published in collections, anthologies, and magazines.

After the debut of my first book Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found in 2000, I found myself reading countless emails from folks around the world sharing their own deeply personal struggles. What struck me was the yearning to tell a story, to be heard, but most of all, to heal. Nearly every letter, at some point, posed the question: “Was writing cathartic?”

catharsis, noun:

1a: purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art. b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension.

~ From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catharsis

I’d write back that I hoped the work would lead to a sense of understanding, perhaps some peace, but spiritual renewal? Purification? Purgation? (I didn’t even know what purgation meant!) I wasn’t sure.

All these years later, the answer to the question is yes!

My years of writing about my life, even when that work didn’t get published, helped me know, understand, and incorporate the lessons of a horrific past into the present. But it wasn’t easy, and most of the time, I was alone and frightened because what I wrote was so personal. I feared blow back from those I loved and those who had hurt me. I worried that I had it wrong, too, didn’t remember things correctly, or might be a bad person for seeking answers to the big questions.

Flight School is many things: a resource, a teaching, a memoir-about-writing-memoir. But most of all, it is safe haven where the writer of creative non-fiction can land and feel as if they’ve come home. Here, you can restore yourself and gather the strength to take off again.

If you are here, you are…

  1. …a creative non-fiction writer.

  2. …on a quest for awakening, or at least deeper self knowledge.

  3. …someone who sees beyond the surface and seeks underlying truths.

  4. …hungry for community with writers like yourself.

  5. …eager to grow in your craft.

  6. …open to learning but also willing to share what you know.

  7. …a lover of all things literary and most of all, your fellow writers!

📝 The plan is simple. I’ll send a meaty post every Sunday with a few tidbits tossed in like book reviews and inspiring quotes as the spirit moves me.

Costs?

You can subscribe monthly, become a founding member, sign up for a year, or fly for free, but I’m not going to cut the flow of these posts with a paywall. That seems unnecessary. I will give rewards to my paying folks because…well…they are giving me a bit of their hard money. They deserve my best and most concentrated attention. Energy for energy. That’s a fair exchange. For paying subscribers, I will call for samples of your work about a lesson I’ve taught and share it on the site; I may do a consult or two with the most active participants (that means I’ll read your work, give feedback, and make edit suggestions), if you ask a question that resonates with me, I will respond in the form of a post that provides more depth and detail, and I might pull together a Q&A post, every couple weeks when the questions add up. Bottom line: Paid subscribers are first-class flyers. They get first-class service.

Goals

My primary goal is to create a safe place where we can talk honestly and transparently about the perils and promises of this art form. There is a chance there will be snark and some messy business of personality and attitude. Still, I’m hopeful this inclusive format on Substack will help me bypass, or workaround, the inevitable dark side of the internet and that we can be gracious with one another and gentle with ourselves.  

My second goal is to teach what I know about this art form while admitting that I don’t know it all. You’ll see I lean heavily into classic traditions, but I want to hear from you, too. What do you know? What have you studied? What is helping you grow in your expression and art? Bottom line: I want to learn as much as I want to share. I will be working on getting you involved and offering many prompts, suggestions, and exercises.

My third goal is to stay open, “…so open it hurts, and then open up some more,” as George Saunders once said. And I know it’s risky, but I’ll ask the same of you. Let’s work on this together.

Endorsements

If you are looking for an endorsement for a book, or a book-in-progress, that doesn’t happen here at Flight School. You would best be served contacting my school, www.blackbirdstudiopdx.com. And to be honest, I reserve endorsements for those students who have studied with me for several years.

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To learn more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.