Title

Butterflies Thrive On Octane

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English and Theatre

First Advisor

R. Dean Johnson

Second Advisor

Carter Sickels

Third Advisor

Nancy Jensen

Abstract

The purpose of my thesis is to challenge the boundaries between non-fiction and fiction. My entire thesis is non-fiction, but I plan to use a lot of the literary techniques learned throughout my workshops and classes to challenge the aesthetic of non-fiction. I also want to challenge my reader to see that emotion goes beyond sexuality. I often describe myself as an author that happens to be gay, whereas I think many gay authors these days want to be known as the “gay author.” I think this will make me stand out as a writer in a world where it is very hard to do such these days.

The writing in my thesis deals with two main themes: travel and coping after a relationship. I want my reader to be taken on a journey that goes from the beginning of a relationship, through the break up, and then through the coping after the breakup. I also want my reader to see the beauty in traveling and that traveling can also be a coping mechanism to heal any emotional wounds and spark inspiration.

As far as set up, I want it to be like a scavenger hunt. This will be a memoir comprised of many short narratives and essays (like a novel-in-stories style collection). Many of the narratives will name drop a character, and the reader won’t know who that character is until stories later when an entire story is devoted to that character. I think this will create that “aha” moment for the reader, causing them to reflect back and rethink/challenge their interpretation of what they read before. In between each story will also be a brief aside/interchapter about the author, being gay, or traveling. Some fragments will even include artifacts from text messages or hand written notes that I’ve kept over the years to better influence the fact base of my memoir. These little snippets will also help to weave all of the stories together. I got this idea from the novel, Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey. He writes a bunch of short stories about California, and the characters come and go through each story, which link it together. Also, between each story, is a random fact about California, also linking the stories together. I found this to be a palette cleanser, and I think it is a technique not often used, so I’m excited to have it make my writing stand apart.

I strive for my writing to have a mix of “feelings” throughout. There will be some that seem lyrical and others that seem more narrative driven. By the end of the collection I want it to have read like a giant therapy session. I want it to break down stereotypical walls for the reader in regards to what they previously thought about being gay. It should rather stem to strengthen the equality of emotion that is experienced in all people, especially in all relationships, regardless of sexuality. For instance, one story is about a break-up and the emotion that comes with any breakup. The reader won’t know it is about a gay relationship unless they pick up one the one gender pronoun used (“he”) in connection with it being non-fiction and myself being a male author. I think this collection has numerous opportunities to be diverse from works like it these days, and I hope after it is complete to have it published through a major publisher that will help it break the boundaries that I know it can.

I will work regularly with my thesis advisor as well as create writing time to strengthen my essays based on advice given to me by my peers during workshops. I plan to utilize all that I have learned throughout this MFA and from the readings during my coursework to make this idea come alive on paper.

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