May 16, 2012

AWRF 2012: Martin Edmond on Creative Non-Fiction

Martin Edmond is one of my favourite characters (yes, he is a writer, but he is a character too) and I wish I had been able to make this workshop. Luckily Simon Comber from Readers Services was there to soak up the experience and dash off this description for us.
 
Martin Edmond's workshop on "creative non-fiction" (a term, he hastened to clarify from the start, which he had not chosen himself and was not particularly fond of ) was more of a freewheeling and fun discussion than a workshop. In a review of Edmond's most recent book, Dark Night: Walking With McCahon, by Justin Paton in The Listener, Edmond's prose style had been described as "Too personal to be called histories" and "too flagrantly imaginative to be called biographies". Edmond’s books, he noted, "look out of place on whatever shelf you put them." Thus it was no surprise that Edmond, a critically acclaimed prose writer, was the man to take this discussion -- even if he found the umbrella term for his own style a little reductive.

Edmond combined personal anecdotes with thoughts on writing in general, and explications of the "rules" of non-fiction. He always welcomed discussion and questions from the 40 or so attendees. He stressed that writing was an action. One was not writing when planning what to write or postulating on writing -- only when engaged in the process. Edmond felt preconceived notions of what one was about to write were often hard to realise, and that the best writing was often a surprise to the writer. He described the main qualities of creative non-fiction as selective truth, the inclusion of suppositions and the utilisation of one's right to speculate. "Perhaps" was a useful word, he contended.

Edmond shared his favourite version of the Greek muses: the pre-Renaissance notion that Mneme (memory), Aoide (voice) and Melete (occasion/practice) were the three muses that together bore art, including writing. He generously shared the story of how he came to writing prose (having tried and struggled to be a poet, by his own self-deprecating admission, for 20 years!) when being asked to speak at his father's funeral. The effortless voice that spilled forth when he got up to talk was the same voice with which he began to write his first book.

Discussion then turned more specifically to the complications of writing a personal non-fiction that may or may not refute other people's versions, and Edmond shared his own experiences in interacting with the family members and friends of people that he had focused on (and creatively speculated on) in his books, and the difficulty in deciding what to include and what not to, from both aesthetic and ethical standpoints. "Of course I've left things out," he admitted, "but they all think I've said too much."



Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:00
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