What are the risks of writing non-fiction about real people, real family heartbreaks, real relationship challenges? Does writing about life’s difficulties produce any catharsis and relief? Why would a writer want to revisit tragedies in his or her past?
Those were just a few of the questions addressed last week by authors Barbara Stewart, Lynne Van Luven and Jane Johnston. In an engaging evening panel discussion at Cadboro Bay Book Co., the three shared their experiences and insights as writers and, in Van Luven’s case, as an editor of many others’ memoirs.
Do readers care about the authenticity of a non-fiction writer’s stories?
Do readers even differentiate between fiction and non-fiction?
What are our expectations of the stories we read and their connection to some sort of external, factual, reality?
Writers grapple with these questions all the time. Readers, perhaps, less so.
The high-profile controversy of James Frey, Oprah, and A Million Little Pieces won’t be further clarified by anything I say about it. Interesting, though, to see that the Wikipedia entry on the book now classifies it as a “semi-fictional memoir.” Whatever that is.