Names in this story have been changed to protect the silly (writers are seldom innocent).
Some time last year a gifted non-fiction writer of my acquaintance, Karin, told me she did not understand fiction writers. “I couldn’t do that. How do you decide what happens?”
“You just do. You find something cool, and have it happen, I guess?”
She shook her head.
Last night, I sat at a kitchen island chatting with Elsa, a wild-eyed fictionist like myself. Elsa wiped the blue formica clean as we spoke, the action almost subconscious for a fastidious parent.
With the indiscreet clicking and clacking characteristic of dormitory doors, Karin emerged from her room. She looked stunned.
“That surprised to see me?” I said.
“Are we keeping you up, honey?” said Elsa.
“I’m writing…a story.” She half-smiled.
Elsa and I exchanged glances, then studied the transfigured face of our friend. “Fiction?”
“Yes. I never wrote any before. Never.”
“You made something up!?” one of us said, and “Good for you!” the other, all at once, as we surged forward to grab Karin’s hands.
The residencies are transformative, remarkable. They are crucibles and comfort. Imagine this change! Imagine the confirmed teller of truths — or, depending on your philosophy, seeker of them — turning to fiction. It can happen. After all, I’m a confirmed confabulator, and I just wrote this.