By Kathy HalseyIn 2017, Keila V. Dawson examined many of Barb Rosenstock’s mentor texts HERE. Barb's most recent narrative nonfiction biographies share focused telling of one hundred percent real facts that usually answer an important question or an emotional truth. For each story she looks for the “so what?” factor, perfect structure to shape the narrative, and employs poetics techniques fiction writers use.
Setting, character, and Bill Monroe’s problem as a boy are set up in two pages with a page turn. Bill is youngest, “the runt,” his eyes cross, he’s bullied but his sharp ear for sound and music shaped his life. Vocabulary that evokes music and Appalachian roots, create a sense of place and mood: “hightailed it, cheerful jigs, sundown jamboree, harmonies that echoed through the hollows.”
Structure, simplicity, the “so what?” factor, and storytelling make narrative nonfiction “un-putdown-able.” Which mentor texts have modeled these elements for you?