In his personal essay, “Almost California,” Chuck Palahniuk says, “That's why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. And writing makes you look back. Because since you can't control life, at least you can control your version.” As a teacher, I make all my creative non-fiction students read this essay because I think it poignantly defines what autobiographical writing is all about. As a writer, I take this idea a step further and ask myself: why do I write spec-fiction? Hell, why do I write at all?
In the summer of 2010 I worked on a clean-up barge in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As I wrote here on this blog afterward, it was a highly frustrating experience—my hunch that the clean-up vessels were being chased off so BP could sink the oil into the ocean, thereby avoiding damaging photo ops, turned out to be right on—and I was newly inspired as a writer. In my own words, “I (re)adopted the strategy of trying to write stories with relevance to the real world...”