OCEAN PINES — The only thing that makes the truth boring are the words that a person uses to tell it which is why the non-fiction genre has seen a revival in recent years.
Although it dates back to before Truman Capote, when that writer took a gruesome news item and turned it into what he termed “a non-fiction novel” he initiated a debate about what, exactly, can and should be done with the facts.
More than five decades later the verdict has pretty much been decided in Capote’s favor.
Color and ancillary details have made non-fiction worth reading in a way it never has been before. The non-fiction novel has morphed into what is currently being called “creative non-fiction” but also spent some time as the new journalism, long-form journalism and narrative non-fiction.
The genre’s attraction for both readers and writers is the fact that it paradoxically allows for poetic license — liberty with the facts is still banned but interesting things can be done with point of view and voice that are not, strictly speaking, allowed in historical accounts.
Ocean Pines resident Barbara Alfaro has been working in creative non-fiction for some time.
She has had several personal essays in that style published over the years. So when she sat down to begin her memoir, “Mirror Talk” she was able to use these previously published essays as both notes and touchstones as she reconstructed scenes from her life.
“Some of the essays I had already published were left untouched,” she said. “But I still had to fill the spaces between them.”
In that, she got a little help from her husband, Victor, who for obvious reasons is well acquainted with the facts of Alfaro’s life.
He brought to her mind what in their family has come to be known as “the snowball incident”.
That the story was included gives particular insight to the character of both the author and the genre and underscores why this kind of writing has gained popularity recently.
Alfaro had not thought to include the story for several reasons. The first was that she didn’t see how it fit into the rest of the memoir.
It wasn’t, to her mind, particularly interesting and on the face of it lacked the humorous sensibility many of the other stories had.
But the key to a good story is in the telling, which is a common theme in creative non-fiction. The idea is to take something that might seem mundane and reveal how it is actually engaging. It is a difficult task but one that rewards both writer and reader as it challenges objective notions of “interesting” by focussing on the storytelling process more than the content.
The decision to write and then include the story is kind of a watershed moment.
It is a prime example of how Alfaro found the key to filling in the gaps between a loose group of essays and producing a cogent, engaging memoir.
Although she’s published both essays and poetry, as well as produced and directed plays, this was Alfaro’s first attempt at a long-form narrative work and its success has emboldened her.
Although paperback sales haven’t been as brisk as she would have liked, the Kindle version of Mirror Talk has had a significant amount of success and has emboldened her to continue her long-form work.
Using a program provided through the publishing giant, Amazon.com, and her own layout program, Alfaro was able to self-publish the book without too much effort.
Although her book of poetry will require a greater amount of skill — she’s engaged someone to make sure it doesn’t come apart on the digital page — the empowering act of developing her own readership independently has also whetted her appetite.
To follow along on Alfaro’s literary journey readers can find her work at barbaraalfaro.net. The site also has a link to her blog.