When thinking of non-fiction, most people likely conjure a somewhat dull read in the form of biography, historical account, textbook or otherwise.
Bainbridge Island-based author Jim Whiting has written at least one book in each of those veins in the past five years, yet he still isn’t bored with the genre. That’s because for him non-fiction, fact finding and learning overall are essential.
He’ll be speaking on those topics and more at the next Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable at 7 p.m. July 17 at the Bainbridge Island Library — 1270 Madison Ave.
“Every time I pick up a book I learn something new,” Whiting said.
Whiting’s newest books — he’s working on three at the moment — are children’s non-fiction focused on 1) American Olympic gold medalist teams, 2) Antarctic adventurers and 3) the story of James Beckwourth, an African-American mountain man.
Whiting has been writing children’s non-fiction since the beginning the millennium and by the end of next year, he said he will have more than 100 books in print, covering a sweeping array of subject matter.
A full list of his many texts are available at his Web site — www.jimwhiting.com.
Upon perusal of this list — and given his Bainbridge location — it’s easy to see why the Field’s End contacted Whiting about leading a workshop titled “More than kid stuff: What is compelling nonfiction?”
“When I was a kid, unlike a lot of my peers then and even now, I read a lot of non-fiction,” Whiting said. “I know at least something about quite a lot of different things … I really enjoy finding things out.”
That desire is, in large part, the genesis of any non-fiction book. Then comes the refinement, arrangement and tedious cross-checking of one’s findings, and finally putting the pen to paper and writing the book.
For the July 17 workshop, Whiting said he’ll focus on the latter.
“I think the thing that people are really expecting is some nuts and bolts stuff about how they can improve their own writing,” Whiting said. “To me, the most important part of writing non-fiction, or even fiction, is writing something that right from the get-go is going to compel someone to keep reading.”
With that in mind, he’ll be bringing a list of about 20 different reader-entrancing techniques along with other examples of methods that he’s drawn from his experience.
And, of course, as is custom at Field’s End’s Writers’ Roundtables, other writers gathered will surely have at least a few anecdotes or additional techniques to add to the discussion.
“I’m going to talk a little about what non-fiction is, or perhaps more accurately what it isn’t,” Whiting said, pointing to the word itself. “People think of non-fiction being kind of one word, but it’s actually ‘non’ and then ‘fiction.’ Non-fiction is kind of the poor relative of fiction in that its defined not in its own terms but in reference to something else.”
The term fiction appeared in the English language 600-700 years ago, but the word non-fiction didn’t enter until later in the 1800s by some bureaucrat in the Boston Library, Whiting said.
The connection today, therefore, is that non-fiction books don’t typically enjoy the glamor or profit potential of fiction’s bestsellers. But in a world where ultimately knowledge is power and truth can set people free, non-fiction literature holds the key.
Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable with Jim Whiting
7 p.m., July 17 at the Bainbridge Public Library — 1270 Madison Ave.
In addition to his plethora of children’s non-fiction, Whiting was also the chief editor of Northwest Runner Magazine for 17 years in addition to writing sports for the Bainbridge Review, occasionally appearing in the Seattle Times and taking on a host of freelance writing and editing gigs. However, this workshop will be his first collaboration with Field’s End.
Info: www.jimwhiting.com, www.fieldsend.org