Friday, January 16, 2009

What Kind of Person Writes Nonfiction?

For a couple of years now, Margery Facklam (my mom) and I have been working on a book about writing nonfiction for children. And one of the questions we asked ourselves was "What kind of person writes nonfiction?" We come from all walks of life -- Margery has a teaching background, I studied anthropology. Steven Swinburne was a photographer, Russell Freedman was a journalist, etc.

But we all have one characteristic in common -- we love to learn. When author Annie Dillard described herself in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she said, "I am no scientist...I am a wanderer with a penchant for quirky facts." That pretty much sums up most of us. We are perpetual students soaking up information and shining our light on common and not so common things.

Besides being perpetual students we are also teachers eager to share what we have learned. And what we share is not just a collection of dry facts but information flitered through our own perceptions. We are as biased as anyone else. But our bias is to present the facts through a hopeful lens. This world might not be perfect but with hope someday it will be better. Nonfiction writer Milton Meltzer once said, "Almost everything I write has to do with social change -- how it comes about, the forces that advance it and the forces that resist it, the moral issues that beset m en and women seeking to realize their humanity... I have not been neutral; I see nothing wrong in the historian who feels a commitment to humane concerns -- to the ending of war, of poverty, of racism."

Through our writing we show that there are struggles to overcome, whether it is learning how to play baseball or saving the manatee, and by telling the true stories of others who have struggled, we provide hope and motivation.

Not a bad job to have.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Peggy. I'd like to get back in touch with you and your mother. Please email me: Jeanne Lesinski