The subject matter of Aimee Parkison’s fictional works sometimes make her readers squirm: suicide, violence and all forms of abuse – emotional, physical and sexual.
“What we (writers) try to do is create conflict, and in my work I do that in an extreme way,” said the UNCCharlotte associate professor of English. “I really try to think about how to create characters that face certain kinds of dilemmas that maybe people aren’t comfortable talking about in society.”
Parkison will discuss her writing process Nov. 13 as the featured speaker in the next installment of Personally Speaking, a community series that shares university faculty’s work with the public.
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Now in its fourth year, Personally Speaking lectures are intended to be casual conversations between lecturer and audience. A reception follows each discussion; the events are free and open to anyone.
The series is co-sponsored by the UNCC College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the J. Murrey Atkins Library.
In her lecture, Parkison will share the methods and research behind “The Innocent Party,” her collection of short stories with dark themes.
The key to writing fiction, she said, begins with character development.
“You have to think about characters who have big problems that they have to overcome. Characters who have secrets and have undergone some kind of traumatic event, because those are the characters who will lead to the most dramatic stories,” said Parkison, who uses method-acting techniques to get closer to her characters.
In “The Innocent Party,” one story deals with a woman who is trying to get over the suicide of her lesbian lover. In another, lonely college students, looking for pets, unknowingly adopt children instead. Another work explores the complications that arise when a teenager has an affair with a divorced sheriff.
“They are all kinds of different topics, but what connects them is the risk involved, in terms of the subject matter and also the vision of innocence or guilt, in terms of the way society would judge these particular characters,” said Parkison.
Parkison grew up in Oklahoma and received her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Cornell University.
She said she’s always had a writer’s mind.
“I can’t help but to imagine the ‘What if?’: I’m continuously spinning stories, even when I’m not consciously trying to write something,” she said. “I daydream. I fantasize. I explore fictional worlds.”
Her fiction and poetry have been published in many literary magazines and academic journals. An earlier collection of stories, “Woman with the Dark Horses” won the Starcherone Prize, an award for innovative fiction, in 2004.
Besides teaching creative writing courses and coordinating the creative writing program at UNCC, Parkison travels the nation holding reading and writing workshops. Next year, she’ll serve on the “Women Writing Violence” panel at the 2014 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Seattle, one of the largest writing conferences in North America.