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Writing Tips

Ayelet Tsabari: Why "ordinary" stories matter

Ayelet Tsabari was a reader for the 2014 Creative Nonfiction Prize. In this writing tip, she answers the question she is often asked by her students: "'Don’t you need to have an extraordinary life to write creative nonfiction?

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When I started writing creative nonfiction, I struggled with the voice in my head that kept asking, 'Who cares about your story?' Now that I teach, I hear the same concerns from my students, 'Don’t you need to have an extraordinary life to write creative nonfiction?' I always tell them the same thing. Our stories matter. People do care. Fiction often tells stories about ordinary people going through life, stories about love and loss and hope and passion and despair and triumph. Creative nonfiction is no different. If you write your story well, if you evoke emotion, if you use sensory details and create compelling characters, people will care. Readers will relate, even if your story is set in a different country, or a different era. People look for themselves in your stories. They seek a mirror in your story in which they can see themselves."

Ayelet Tsabari is the author of The Best Place on Earth (HarperCollins), nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She is a National Magazine and a Western Magazine Award winner, and a two-time winner of Event’s Creative Non-Fiction Contest. She was named one of ten Canadian writers to watch by CBC.

Photo credit: Elsin Davidi



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