Writing without judgment

I’m catching up on reading Thomas French’s work.  Yesterday I printed out (using much paper and ink) his series “The Exorcist in Love” and most of “Angels & Demons” (I didn’t print the whole thing because I was using much paper and ink).  I read The Exorcist in Love yesterday and the whole time my inner voice was saying yes! yes! yes!  His approach is so similar to what I want to do with the street preacher story.  I don’t want to judge the preachers for what they do, even though many people would.  Their stories are what they are and they are who they are and they have something to offer our understanding of the world even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint or their methods.  That’s part of what gets me so excited about this kind of reporting.  Like my masters project, profiles of drug court offenders.  They weren’t necessarily pillars of society, but their stories are instructive nevertheless.  Same with the witches I’ve been trying to hang out with.

I’ve been thinking about crime as a topic lately, especially because it’s a subject I come across fairly frequently in the nonfiction I’ve been reading.  I am obsessed with crime and especially psychopathology.  My friend who is a social psychologist and knows about my obsession told me a couple years ago she came across a paper about a study of people like me.  The conclusion was that obsession with crime is a protective mechanism – in other words, the more you know about how criminals do things and why, the safer you can be from them.  I find that interesting, too.

At any rate, it’s seems only natural for me to put my inappropriately vast knowledge of crime and criminals to use in my writing, but here’s the challenge I see: crime by its nature is compelling.  The story of a serial killer will always be dramatic because it’s so rare and so horrifying.  So how do you tell crime stories with a special point of view?  How do you make sure you delve deeper into the story than just recounting the crime, the psychopath’s childhood blah blah blah?  It’s something I want to talk over with my mentor when the residency starts in July.

Speaking of which, we got our “mentor selection sheet,” asking for the names of four faculty members we would like to mentor us.  My number one was, of course, French.  Two, three and four were: Suzannah Lessard, Richard Todd and Jacob Levenson.  We also got a “sneak preview” of the residency program, which included a description of a talk by Sarah Koenig, a producer with This American Life, about which I’m so stoked because I have long had an interest in radio.  Yay!

Anyway, back to plowing through all the reading I’ve assigned myself.  I tend to spend Sunday afternoons reading.