for the love of words and pictures and true stories
Throughout my childhood, I gazed in awe over the shoulder of my artist-magician father as he hand-lettered and illustrated three volumes of Rice's Encyclopedia of Silk Magic with pen and ink (over 1500 pages).
But as a teenager living in a difficult household, I was denied my own library card. Dismissive of the 'sunny-book farm' readings assigned at school and my mother's girlhood collection of classics, I eschewed novels in favour of two forbidden magazines: True Story and True Confessions. Even if their stories weren't true—though I believed they were—they held important life lessons.
Hungry for the real and the true, I plastered the pages of my teen diaries with dramatic headlines cut from those taboo magazines to express my own true stories. And I delved into the leather-bound volumes of our World Book Encyclopedia; searching the indexes, in awe of the breadth of knowledge, and pouring over the pages of words and pictures and true stories.
Many years ago, I met a woman who was en route from being a journalist in New York to being a novelist in Vermont. "How does a journalist on Friday become a novelist on Monday?" I enquired. "Well," she offered, "as a journalist I have to report the facts, but as a novelist I get to tell the truth."
Though fact and truth are not so discrete. Nor is it unusual for fiction and non-fiction to cross paths. As a reader and a writer, I favour the smack and sizzle of a gut-punch of a true story written in literary style. This creative non-fiction form differs from non-fiction when we memoirists, for example, engage the literary tools and conventions of fiction to tell our true stories.
And pictures, please!
“Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” —Gabriel García Márquez, Living to Tell the Tale, 2003.