Creative non-fiction. At first glance, it might seem an oxymoron – indeed, it did to me. ‘How can something rooted in pure fact be creative?’ I had wondered to myself when I was first introduced to the concept last Friday, at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Parnell. There I was, one of two lucky students from ACG Strathallan who attended a writing workshop entitled “Creative Non-fiction and the Short Story”.
It was the first of our two guest speakers, Bianca Zander, who worked with us on this apparently contrary genre. A recipient of the CNZ Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary, presently the editor of Little Treasures magazine, an author of two novels – as well as a multitude of works for radio, television, and film – and having taught creative writing at both AUT and MIT, to say she was an authority on the subject of writing would be quite the understatement. She explained that, in essence, creative non-fiction was “a true story well told”; the inclusion of literary devices such as dialogue and metaphorical description results in a piece which seeks to entertain as well as inform its reader. As an aspiring journalist, this concept very much appealed to me, as is hopefully apparent by the style of this article.
Ms. Zander also went on to demonstrate to us a technique for combating the bane of writers everywhere; writer’s block. We used the astutely named “One-Inch Window” – a one-inch by one-inch square cut into a piece of paper, functioning to eliminate outside distractions whilst describing a certain object viewed through the aforementioned aperture. Whilst mostly designed to prove the point that there is plenty to be described in a mere one-inch view, it was a fascinating and useful exercise nonetheless.
The second speaker was yet again undoubtedly qualified; Tracey Slaughter is a talented and accomplished multi-award-winning writer of short stories, and lecturer in creative writing at the University of Waikato. She worked with us on the skills involved with the writing of such pieces, including altering cliché opening lines to be more gripping, the best way to end a piece, and how to write characters properly. Passionate and personable, she was inspiring to everyone present, and provided welcome insight into the world of professional writing.
The workshop was, in a word, invaluable. Engaging and entertaining, we developed our abilities greatly, and added many techniques to our repertoire. I sincerely look forward to future events such as this, and wholeheartedly encourage other young writers to look into attending one such workshop too.
Although I do freely admit that the morning tea of biscuits and jelly snakes certainly contributed to my opinion.
Written by Angus Cameron who attended a writing workshop hosted by the Michael King Writer’s Centre at the National Library in Parnell.