Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Non-Fiction--Which Kind Do You Like To Write?

Yesterday, Ken and I went to the Landon Lecture on the K-State campus. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health in President Obama's cabinet, presented an overview of public health issues facing our country and the positive aspects of the new healthcare reform bill. Ms. Sebelius served almost two terms as governor of our state of Kansas before being tapped for this Washington, DC position eighteen months ago.

There was a question and answer period following the speech, and I found it quite interesting--not because of the questions but because of those asking the questions. Normally, students ask the majority of questions, but this time only one student presented a question, and the others were all well-established, older people who had professional careers. Perhaps the students don't see health issues and healthcare as a burning interest for them. Youth tends to think they will never get sick or incapacitated, nor are they paying healthcare premiums. Mom and Dad usually take care of that while they're in school.

After the lecture concluded, those who are patrons of the Lecture Series attended a luncheon and then listened to Ms. Sebelius again, but this time her remarks were quite different. In the first speech, she presented facts and figures such as would be found in a purely nonfiction article. Had she been writing for a magazine, she'd have had side bars with graphs and statistics sprinkled throughout the text. Readers receive information in the most basic way in this type of article.

Her talk after the luncheon could be compared to creative non-fiction. She related many anecdotes that gave listeners a picture of how her life has changed since being governor of our state. We learned some more facts, but we learned it in a personal, creative way. Had she been writing for a magazine, her work would be a personal essay. It had the human element that the first speech did not.

Many writers make a good living writing non-fiction that gives information and nothing more, but writing creative non-fiction is the choice of many other writers. It's the type of non-fiction I prefer to write because people and the human element are very important to me. There's a market for both kinds of non-fiction, and myriad writing instructors and writing books will tell you that selling non-fiction is easier than fiction. If you're a frustrated fiction writer, give creative non-fiction a try. Tell a true story but give it that 'good fiction story' slant and you may find a new niche for yourself.

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