Carrying on in the series of Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 and Part 2, here is Part 3, the final piece from the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.
the regina mom struggles with how to describe Tyler Trafford. He is not your average writer. And his story is not your average story. He explained that at a young age he became enthralled with the classic hero’s journey, thanks to his mom’s reading of great literature such as The Old Man and the Sea. It became his way of understanding the world.
And then he went on to talk about lies. He said, “Lies help you feel the truth, help you express the truth for other people.” And he took it further, to show how Kate Braid had used a lie in her book, Journeywoman. She uses an extended moment, a psychological reality, to detail a fall, taking time to notice all around her as it happened. He named that as a lie because, in fact, the fall would take only 1/8th of a second — and he provided the math for it, too! It’s a necessary lie, one that is fundamental to the truth of the story.
In his book, Almost A Great Escape, Trafford tells his mother’s story, a story he had to unravel after her death.
He uncovered her lie — what she had kept hidden — all her life. It’s an amazing story and another book on trm‘s To Read list. And it’s an interesting concept, this lying bit. Poets and fiction writers are expected to tell lies in their work. But to suggest that creative nonfiction writers also do so seems to go against the grain of what nonfiction is about. But his examples — in Braid’s work and in his own — harken back to what Kostash spoke of in her opening remarks to this session, that bit about the anxiety in society about nonfiction.
What lies will the regina mom tell in order to make her nonfiction stories true? She knows how to do it in poetry and fiction, but to transfer that to nonfiction is an interesting concept, to say the least! Perhaps they’re already there, lying in wait (pun not intended), for her to discover. Oh, her editing process is going to be a lot more fun now, that’s for sure!