I had to do something unpleasant yesterday: email an editor of a literary magazine where I’d had an essay accepted and tell her I had discovered a factual error in my piece. The journal is due out in only a few weeks, and the error was very minor (a timing issue–something that happened in 1962 instead of 1960 in my husband’s family) but I felt it was necessary to notify them.
I was out for a walk when I sent the email. I was very nervous about it; what if they were angry? What if they decided to pull the piece? I didn’t really think that could happen, but I just wasn’t sure. Lucky for me, it all worked out fine; the editor emailed me back and told me, in a nutshell, that they didn’t really care.
There’s a lot of flap right now in the writing community about what defines creative non-fiction and just where the line between truth and fiction lies. I adhere to the line that Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Non-fiction, draws: you can’t make this stuff up.
My integrity as a writer is very important to me. I want to be as honest as possible about everything–facts, feelings, memories–while also knowing that our memories as human beings are faulty and often flawed. But I felt better for having done it, because it felt like the right thing to do.