Nov 21, 2010

To non-fiction or fiction, that is the question!

By Cecily Markland

I have had the privilege over the last few weeks of working on the editing and, in one case, the publishing of several excellent books. Each of these authors, I believe, has addressed a topic of extreme importance. Each book offers tools that can help with some of the most difficult challenges in our modern-day world. And, each has fueled a question in my mind that I’ve wondered about for some time.

One of these books, called Stand for the Family by Sharon Slater, was published by my company, Inglestone Publishing, last year. The book is now being updated and will soon be going into its fourth printing. As an advocate for the traditional family, Sharon Slater, co-founder and president of an organization called Family Watch International, has spent countless hours over the past decade conducting research as well as participating at the UN and in other arenas. Her book discusses the family as the “fundamental unit of society,” and illustrates how the traditional family is being attacked and undermined through such things as pornography and the assault on marriage and on religious and parental rights. She backs the information she presents with examples taken from social science data and shares ideas throughout the book to show individuals and families what they can do to protect their own home as well as the society as a whole by taking a stand for the family.

Another book I edited was published in late September. Called The Waterfall Concept: a blueprint for addiction recovery, it was written by Roger Stark, a recovering addict and, now, an addiction counselor. It is based on the 12-Step Program, but written from a gospel perspective and includes scriptures and the words of the apostles and prophets, along with his own insights and numerous examples from case studies. The combination serves to help foster understanding of addiction and compulsory behavior, while supplying the specific tools needed for recovery. It’s a message of hope for anyone suffering with an addiction, as well as for their families, priesthood leaders and others who would like to understand more about addiction and how to heal.

Then, just last week, I published a book called: A Warning to My Children: Why Our Economy is Upside Down and How to Prepare for What’s Coming by William R. Cunningham, MS. Based on the author’s extensive reading and his own entrepreneurial business background, the book is not filled with doom and gloom, but rather with clear explanations and ideas of what is to come as well as how to prepare for it. He has been able to condense volumes of research into an easy-to-understand explanation of “the right approach to what to do in our current upside-down economy.”

At this juncture is where my questions—and some doubts—begin to emerge. My company has also published Liz Adair’s novel, Counting the Cost, which was a winner of a Whitney Award in the romance category and continues to win other awards and recognition. And, I am currently involved in ANWA’s Book in a Month, working on my own novel.

Yet, when dealing with such important, “heavy,” and even life-saving topics on one hand, I can’t help but wonder from time to time if novels and other creative pieces are perhaps as “important” or “useful” or life-changing as non-fiction works like those described above. Don’t worry. That is only a fleeting thought as I quickly come back to the first time I read Counting the Cost. Based on a true story from Liz’s own family history, it describes the life-changes that came from the choices made by the main characters. As I read the story, which was woven with Liz’s picturesque descriptions, her strong characterization and scenes that make you laugh and then cry, I was changed. And, in much the same way as with the non-fiction books, I was given tools. I saw myself, recognized some “costs’ I was facing because of some choices and was able to feel and know and then do what I needed to to change all that.

So, please, those of you who write non-fiction…don’t stop enlightening us and helping us navigate the world we live in. And, I’d say the same to those of you who write fiction…don’t stop enlightening us and helping us to navigate the world we live in. Don’t you agree that both are needed? After all, drawing from both non-fiction and fiction, seems like the perfect blend of mind and heart, as we continue to learn line upon written line.


  1. Cecily, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I have been wrestling with this question for several months concerning my own writing. I have ideas for a couple of novels...but I spend all of my writing time on nonfiction. I read both all of the time. I enjoy and need both fiction and nonfiction for different reasons. I agree with you that both are needed.

  2. This is a fantastic post. Personally, as an avid writer and reader, it's important to find that balance. Recently, I was reading Andria Corso's From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor, a book about HR relationships, while working on a short story about college kids who go on a drug fueled bender. I always find that while writing a work of fiction, it's good to have a non-fiction book on hand to clear the mind a little.

  3. In reading I need non fiction for information and personal experience/opinions. But fiction is what keeps me sane.

  4. BOTH are needed. I have learned a phenomenal amount from fiction reads. I've increased my spirituality, learned things about places I didn't know existed and simply been entertained. The written word is a huge gift and the freedom of what we're able to write is also a gift. Thanks, your post was good for some introspection...


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