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Writing and reading: creative non-fiction

January 3, 2009 by Leanne McRae

Creative non-fiction blurs the divisions between fiction and non-fiction. It is a way of activating creative modalities to write about serious or real events. Such writing asks us to rethink our relationship to words on a page and to the production of narratives and knowledges. The strict divisions between truth and fiction, the real and unreal are confused often, yet readers, writers and thinkers often claim the virtues of maintaining critical distance, objective rationality and academic sensibility. To enfold the lyrical and loquacious into scientific discovery, critical analysis or rigorous reporting is framed as an affront to the real – that it somehow corrupts the integrity of truth.

Fiction writers, poets and story-tellers have more latitude with such things – these writers often write from experience and enfold truthful events into their prose. Because it is fiction they are not subjected to the same 'truth' standards as academic writing. However, fiction writers must also work within specified frameworks – there are expectations of style, integrity and identification that is as limiting for fiction writers as the 'truth' expectation is for non-fiction writers. Creative non-fiction collapses these distinctions allowing both styles of writing to move between categories and problematise them. Personal experiences are used to inspire novelisation, critical analysis and narrative experimentation. We live in a world where the divisions between the rational and irrational, truth and fiction are frequently unclear. To write from such a positioning allows a deeper interrogation of human experience.

The writers of the Creative Industrial Matrix Hub have been thinking about these divisions and have written a series of pieces all engaging and dialoguing with the ideas of creative non-fiction.

Debbie Hindley begins our journey by presenting a book review of Simon Winchester's Krakatoa. This review interrogates the creative non-fiction form and presents the experience of reading this style. It can have powerful effects on the reader.

Sonia Bellhouse then asks what it means to read creative non-fiction by unpacking the politics of reading groups.

To follow this up, Debbie writes some of her own creative non-fiction to share the story of Mad Max and demonstrate the connections between personal experience and writing.

Carley Smith then ponders the place of creative non-fiction in her higher degree work and politicises the work of fans and their intervention into the popular media.

Min Young continues the exploration by investigating the follies of fashion at a wedding. Her politicisation of women's bodies is read off the members of the wedding party and the expectations of formal couture and behaviour. In this provocative piece Min demonstrates that just because clothing is encoded as fashionable does not mean it should be worn.