Ahead of our Creative Non-Fiction Festival on Saturday 2 November, festival director Benjamin Law joins us for a quick chat about jaw-droppingly good stories.
Lee Gutkind describes creative non-fiction as ‘true stories well told.’ Can you expand on this definition for our readers?
It’s odd: even now, some people think “creative non-fiction” is a contradiction in terms, as if true stories don’t require any creative input whatsoever. If that was the case, all factual stories would be written in bullet-points or as Wikipedia entries. Gutkind’s definition is a handy one: in order for real-life stories to be engaging, riveting, tragic or funny, they need to be well-told. And that requires damn good craft.
And what, in your opinion, makes great creative non-fiction?
Any story that makes my jaw drop with genuine shock, making me utter involuntarily, “No way.” Stories that make you give a shit about the world in which you live, and make you aware of the stakes.
What are some of your favourite works in this genre to come out in the last few years?
Overseas, my heroes are Susan Orlean, Ariel Levy, Jon Ronson, Devin Friedman and Chris Heath. Read Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, Levy’s New Yorker profile on Caster Semenya, Ronson’s Them and anything by Friedman and Heath. In Australia: Anna Krien’s Night Games and Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man are the obvious picks. And Jane Cadzow, Trent Dalton, David Leser and John van Tiggelen could write about tax and somehow make it riveting.
Your books The Family Law and Gaysia both received some pretty rave reviews. Are you working on a new book now?
Yep. Without giving too much away, Book #3 is officially underway. My main aim is to appall people.
You can purchase your tickets to the Creative Non-Fiction Festival here.