“Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of story telling. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.”
The prose section of the Spring 2017 issue of VoiceCatcher contains no fiction. Why not? Because all of the prose pieces submitted were non-fiction. As editors, this surprised us, but in the end the fundamental differences between well-written literary non-fiction and well-written fiction are not so great. In one case the writer crafts work from her experience, and in the other the writer works from her imagination. As readers, we want to lose ourselves in scene, in dialogue, in suspense, and in conflict that moves towards resolution. We want writing that is skilled and agile. We want issues to be raised, and we don’t expect easy answers. We want stories that are told with dignity, clarity, elegance, and grace. The pieces chosen for this issue of VoiceCatcher prove that, no matter its provenance—fiction or non-fiction—a story is a story is a story.
As editors, we hope for a theme to emerge in the pieces we publish, and often it does. There are universal themes that show up in all literary collections (since there’s really only so much to write about): grief, pain, fear, joy, anger, shame, recovery, hope. In the four stories in this issue what happens in childhood doesn’t stay in childhood. These are stories that explore our complex and changing relationships with our parents and with ourselves, and the burdens and pain that come with growing up and aging. There are changing lines of dependence and independence, and roles reverse.
In “Purses at Chipotle,” the narrator observes her seemingly commonplace surroundings and arrives at a heartbreaking realization. The narrator in “Leftovers” sets aside anger and betrayal to forge a new relationship with her formerly estranged father. In “Learning to Feed Myself,” the narrator portrays, with levity and candor, how difficult she finds it to change cooking habits after her husband’s death. And finally, “Target Practice” grapples with the question, how much do we owe our parents, and do we have an obligation to forgive them?
Literary non-fiction and fiction both use story to get at truth. They draw us in, they paint a picture, they show us the lives of their characters, and they make our own lives resonate, whether the characters are real or not. As editors, it is our very great pleasure to share these stories with all of you here.