Qualified to Write?
There once was a trade mag for writing and in it they asked some agents what they wantedwhen they got a proposal for a work of creative nonfiction. One agent said, “I need to know why an author is qualified to write what they’re writing.” Ok, maybe she was talking about publishing a book about how to build a duck pond. Another agent wanted to see a story arc when they get a proposal for a memoir. These two genres are miles apart but included together in the section about what agents want to see in queries.
This begs the query, What is nonfiction? I’ve seen the term “literary nonfiction” applied to memoir and I’ve seen “creative nonfiction” described the same way. Nonfiction says, “True Story”, to my sensibilities. For the root fictionem from Latin meaning ” fashioning or feigning” we could say to make, as in making something up . So, nonfiction could be translated as “not making” or I guess not making up. “Memoir”, to me, says that someone is writing an autobiography replete with tales of living among humanity for so long that it’s time they told everybody what they think, you know, like they are famous.
I’m not famous and I know nothing about duck ponds, except they usually smell quite fowl. So, what a conundrum, right? Where are we – us that see life as one big serendipitous, metaphorical play? Obviously there is a market for us out there with writers like Thomas Farber, Simon Winchester and Paul Theroux. But we are more and we have a voice! We should unite and demand a section at Barnes&Noble. When I go in there to ask what they have in the way of nonfiction, a glaze forms over the pro bookseller’s eyes and they begin pointing in directions relevant to biographies and travel and then they walk off before you can say duck pond.
Where is the nonfiction section? Really have you ever noticed how many fiction books there are in any given bookstore? But being in a non-niche has its advantages because hey, we are rare. But why, why are we so rare in this world that worships celebrities as deities, thinks that Paris Hilton is actually human and believes that virtual reality is real? Maybe the question answers the question. It is because of these things that we are rare.
I love reading a true story precisely because it is true and not a hyped image of something that isn’t real anyway. It happened somewhere and to somebody and hopefully they survived, but if they didn’t; well, it is still interesting and it is interesting because it happened to another human. And that it happened to one of my brothers or sisters out there means that it is possible – it could happen even to lowly me.
Maybe in this unreal world, real stories are just too boring. Maybe it is a necessity to dream about being a supermodel while working under fluorescent lights in a cubicle on the 23rd floor of another cubicle. Maybe the drudgery of survival is so demeaning that we must, we have to learn to fly in our day and night dreams to escape our present nothingness level of existence; and to read about my adventures isn’t enough to pull a cubicle head out of the soup de drudge.
Don’t get me wrong I love good fiction, but can we have some balance please!?
So long for now.