When I wrote about creativity in non-fiction writing and invited fellow non-fiction writers to take part in an interview series on the subject, I had a huge response. Some of the messages I received were very long, some were more concise, and if I published them all one by one, I’d be holding interviews back for months). So, here I’m going to do a sort of group interview with a selection of non-fiction writers – I hope you enjoy this format, just to mix things up a bit! There won’t be an answer from each person to every question, but you can follow their paths through their writing lives …
So, today we’re meeting Robin Stevens (who writes under the pseudonym Rhabi Rites), Wayne T. Ollick and Richard W. Bender, all of whom have been inspired to publish books on issues and topics which are important to them.
Hello everyone! Tell me a bit about yourselves first, please …
Robin Stevens: My name is Robin Stevens but my pseudonym is Rhabi Rites. I was a foster child at the age of 5 months old to be later adopted in the Stevens family. I am originally from Greensboro, NC and have been living here since birth. I am a playwright and director as well as an author. I enjoy the outdoors and love animals. My hobbies are cooking, singing, writing, and hiking, although I don’t get to hike much these days.
Wayne T. Ollick: I am retired and became very involved in politics, for the first time in my life, when Liberalism/Progressivism took over the country. I forward, highlight and comment on articles that I receive each day to about 300 followers
Richard W. Bender: I write non-fiction only, about the things I do and some of my experiences. I have been blessed with unique creativity and great opportunities in my life and I have a lot to teach and share. My first book, “Herbal Bonsai”, is out of print after selling more than 10,000 copies and my second book, “Bountiful Bonsai” is due out in January, 2015 and is available for preorder at Amazon.
How did you start writing, and which came first, fiction or non-fiction?
Robin: I first started writing when involved in a domestic violent relationship back in 2000. Writing became a way of escape..my peace and I have been writing ever since. My first writings were scripts to stage plays and then came poems, song lyrics and monologues. My latest is the novel Delivered, I wrote in 2013. Non-fiction came first for me because most of my writings were based on my life. I hated writing in school, which is funny to me now. English was my worst subject and one day while in college, one of my English professors told me that my essay writing was so expressive and that I should consider writing one day. That was back in 1988. I did not start to write until 2000.
Wayne: As I mentioned, I recently became very involved in politics. I believe the number one problem in the USA is the inability of people in both parties to communicate. This all-consuming schism has occurred twice before in our history. First, at the time of the Revolutionary War (Patriots and Loyalists) and second, just before and during the Civil War (those for slavery [Southern Democrats] and those against [The newly formed Republican Party]). My book addresses today’s schism, especially in my chapter on, “The Plight of the Baby Boomers”.
Did you always want to write (a memoir / non-fiction) or was this a relatively late development?
Richard: I told my parents I would be an outdoor writer when my age was still in single digits. I never started writing seriously until I was in my thirties and had my first articles published in newspapers and magazines at the age of 34.
Wayne: I call myself a ‘Sophichologist’, a made up word that is a composite of the words, Sociology, Philosophy, and Psychology, my main interests of which, I believe, are overlapping disciplines. So the idea of writing about my thoughts has always existed but I never actually thought I would write a book. I was talking to a friend around 2008 and telling him that I feel like Dr. McCoy (of the Star Trek movie) must have felt when Mr. Spock used a mind meld to transfer all of his knowledge into McCoy’s head, as Spock was about to die saving the ship. [I am sorry if you are not a fan of Star Trek, which might make this analogy tedious.] Anyhow, I had 40 years of thoughts in my head that were screaming to come out and suddenly I realized that the only way that will happen is to write a book. In 2009 I started.
I recently blogged about finding that writing non-fiction was still “creative”. Do you agree, or is only fiction writing truly creative?
Wayne: I absolutely agree! While writing, I am always finding ways to creatively format and arrange the content in a manner that will hold the reader’s interest. Adding anecdotes and humor is also a tool I use to bring home a point in a way in which the reader can identify or be amused.
Richard: Nonfiction is creative. I write about the creative things I do and am working on a collection of philosophical essays about experiences in my life that could be considered a memoir and I call creative nonfiction.
Robin: The most a writer can do to make their writings interesting is to use fiction. We all have lives, experiences, things we have been through but until you add that spin, that fictional edge, all you have are words. Stories need a “twist”. Plays need a “turn” something that will lead the person down the road they are familiar with only to give them a detour..which keeps it interesting in my opinion. Then you have an audience who are wondering where the story will go next. This keeps them coming back for more. So in writing your non-fiction, give the readers what they expect, but also give them more of what they didn’t.
I’ve heard it said that memoir should be considered as “creative non-fiction” – do you agree with that description? How do you think writing memoir differ from writing fiction on the one hand and non-fiction on the other?
Richard: I don’t write fiction, but consider myself a storyteller. My stories happen to be about real experiences from my life. My nonfiction articles and books are about imparting information. My memoir essays have to tell a story that keeps the reader interested, much like fiction and I consider that to be creative nonfiction.
Robin: I would not agree with the statement that a memoir should be considered “creative non-fiction.” Any memoir I’ve ever read was based on a true story and depending I guess upon the author, the “creativity” would be based on what those memories were. This makes it non-fiction. Authors can however add to their memories to make them seem interesting but most I’ve read do not. I myself am a creative writer, descriptive in my writings, but to write one of these would be totally based on fact. If that’s creative, so be it. There’s nothing wrong with making your story “pop”, but I would say if an author writes about their memories, those memories are precious and many times are left alone.
Wayne: I am a bad person to respond to that question. I wrote my book in the third person because I wanted it to be solely about the content and not about me. So, I would never consider writing my memoirs or an autobiography. Those are for highly accomplished people, in my opinion. But, if you are going to write about yourself, you had better be creative, or your audience may get quite bored.
Have you got anything else you want to add about creativity and writing (with particular regard to non-fiction)?
Wayne: I have read non-creative non-fiction and it read like a technical manual. Think about the difference between a teacher that simply voices the material while writing it on the board (I’ve had a lot of those!) as opposed to one who gets the class involved by asking their opinions before he tells them the facts. I should say that I am a fan of the ‘Socratic’ method of teaching in which Socrates would ask his pupils a series of questions until they came upon the answer on their own.
I think you’ll agree that this is an interesting selection of answers from a group of very different people who turn out to agree on a lot!
Watch out for more interviews, either by subscribing to this blog (see the links in the top right if you’re viewing on a PC or on the drop-down menu if you’re reading on a phone or tablet) or clicking on the “non-fiction creativity” tag.