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Creative Nonfiction

Julija Sukys: Get up and go somewhere

During the month of January we will be running creative nonfiction writing tips from members of the Creative Nonfiction Collective to give you inspiration for our current creative nonfiction competition

The first tip is from Montreal-based writer Julija Sukys.

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Good creative nonfiction takes the reader on a journey of discovery, and the best way to take your reader somewhere is to go there yourself.  You can do this figuratively (by journeying into the past or inside yourself), but you can also do this literally. 

In 2010, my cousin and I set off on a four-day train trip across Siberia to find the village where our grandmother had been exiled for 17 years. “What if there’s nothing there?” friends asked me, worried perhaps that I was flirting with heartbreak. The trip was worth taking, I assured them, no matter what happened - even if we found nothing at the end of the line. After all, finding nothing is something to write about too. 

When you feel empty, at a loss or out of ideas, get up and go somewhere (not necessarily as far as Siberia), see something new or do something weird. Observe yourself and others as you go. You will inevitably learn something along the way, even if it’s not what you expected (if that’s the case, so much the better!). Take notes. Chances are that what you learn will be something worth writing about.

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Julija Šukys is the author of two books of creative nonfiction, Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė (2012) and Silence is Death: The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout (2007). Epistolophilia was shortlisted for the Mavis Gallant Prize in Nonfiction, and has just been long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize in Literary Nonfiction. Šukys lives in Montreal, where she is completing a book based in part on her journey to Siberia.

Julija Sukys is a member of the Creative Nonfiction Collective (CNFC). To learn more or become a member, click here.

Find out more about our creative nonfiction competition.

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