We ask writers what they read online.
My interest in nonfiction began relatively recently, when in 2012, I applied for, and received, a Hot Desk Fellowship at The Wheeler Centre to write about my experience of miscarriage. The time spent there led me to David Shield’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto and I have been readjusting my prejudice against nonfiction ever since. Having saturated myself in literature for most of my life, it’s been a joy to discover this ‘other’ side to writing.
Creative nonfiction (‘true stories, well told’) is, perhaps, the centrepiece of modern American nonfiction, but I find their site singularly uninspiring. More interesting by far is Narratively (‘human stories, lovingly told’) which aims to counteract the 24 hour news cycle by exploring a theme a week and only posting one story a day. It has the feel of being created exclusively for the web, unlike CNF which clearly still relies on being printed. Although Narratively tends to be very US-centric, there was a recent story from Australia (‘The Roaming Beach Kids of Byron Bay’) and it seems to be increasingly attracting work from around the world.
Closer to home, Chart Collective is self-described as a space to explore ‘the ways our stories are woven into the Australian environment’. While not strictly dedicated to nonfiction, it has produced beautiful collections of creative work around various themes, from ‘The Longer Light’ series to my favourite, so far, ‘The Nocturnal Series’ where writers were invited to meditate on life after dark. The current stand-out—Tony Birch’s illustrated vignettes ‘Five Stars and a Kulin Sky’—is keenly summed up by the editor, Sophie Allan, when she notes how Birch’s writing is able to ‘traverse clear-eyed but tender nostalgia, water-off-a-duck’s-back coolness, razor-sharp political commentary and a lightning-crack punchline’. Birch was, apparently, the inspiring teacher behind the Chart Collective’s establishment and it’s a pleasure to find a space which aims for both sophisticated writing and welcoming layout.
Established under the auspices of well-known The Lifted Brow, these kinds of sites provide refreshing writing which push the boundaries of clean-cut definitions, effortlessly weaving both fiction and nonfiction stories with political and cultural ideas. They offer an antidote to ‘writers writing about writing’ which can otherwise dominate my Facebook feed, an inevitability when you follow numerous publishers, writing centres and authors. Alongside Seizure and Scum, they help to remind me I don’t need to limit my reading (or writing) to any particular type of work, how the joy of story-telling is to play with the artificial borders we try to erect around our experiences.
Rachel Hennessy is the author of two novels: The Quakers (2009) and The Heaven I Swallowed (2013). Her nonfiction has been published in Overland, Kill Your Darlings, Daily Life and The Lifted Brow. She lives in Melbourne.