Jim Shepard on Writing Fiction That’s Got Some Truth to It


“The first worry writers have when they consider working with something like historical events has to do with the issue of authority:  as in, where do I get off writing about that?    Well, here’s the good and the bad news:  where do you get off writing about anything?   Where do you get off writing about someone of a different gender?    A different person?   Where do you get off writing about yourself, from twenty years ago?

Writers shouldn’t lose sight of the essential chutzpah involved in trying to imagine any other kind of sensibility.  And that they should take heart from that chutzpah, as well.   The whole project of literature – the entire project of the arts — is about the exercise of the empathetic imagination.   Why were we given something as amazing as imagination, if we’re not going to use it?”

Jim Shepard “On the Subject of Fiction Based on Nonfiction” at Electric Literature’s blog. Also on their blog,  Chapter 22 of Shya Scanlon’s new serialized novel. (HT)

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →