She’s been dubbed everything from the love child of Flannery O’Connor and the ghost of Hank Williams, to the only non-country Country singer. A wearer of many hats, entertainer-writer Minton Sparks brought her artistry to Middle Tennessee State University this weekend for the 2016 Southern Literary Festival with her workshop, “Burn Through Your Story: Come Set Your Story on Fire,” and a performance at Tucker Theatre.
One of the first speakers to workshop with and teach students and attendees, Sparks’ 1 p.m. session on Thursday was about how transformational personal writing can be.
“We change as the stories we tell about ourselves change,” said Sparks of the healing power of personal stories.
Well-versed in psychology and health science, she emphatically promotes the idea that the artistic process is healing, which she began to take interest in during her career as a therapist. In her experience, the spoken-word artist, as she likes to be called, was getting used to seeing people who had nice appearances come in dragging a “castle of crazy family members like a wet piece of toilet paper.”
“The reason I started writing the way I write … was when I started out writing family stories for my children because they came from these wild, broke-down Arkansas people,” said Sparks, “and I didn’t want them to not know these people.”
Growing up with a grandmother who never spoke, whether biologically or by choice, Sparks was inspired to tell stories about Southern women. Now, the writer is interested in families, and all of the dysfunctional stories she was ashamed of before are the things she’s interested in now.
And this style of writing, a memoir-type fiction, is not only creative and therapeutic, but it’s good for your health too. From building stronger immune systems to stronger relationships, there’s a beneficial “alchemical process that occurs” when a person writes their own personal stories.
Having a son that was chronically ill for some years, Sparks learned first-hand that we all have different places that we write from — experiences that shape our outlook on life. After reading “Where I’m From,” a poem by George Ella Lyon, she divulged that she writes such a poem every few years to get a sense of where she’s coming from at different times in her life. Knowing Sparks, she’ll wish that place was a rough one.
“You can’t beat having a hard life as a writer,” said Sparks. “Creatively, it’s the best thing. So I say bring it on, ’cause I’m gonna write about it.”
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