Letter from the President, Monday 03 May 2021

Dear Members,

It is a late weekly email from me this week – a whole day late in fact! I had a lot of information to include and so a short letter and straight to it…

Until next week, happy writing,

We had a good turnout for the monthly meeting on Friday 30th April held the Library at the Dock, Docklands, Victoria. Members joined online or in person.

The main presentation at the meeting was delivered by Di Websdale-Morrissey who spoke about Creative Non-Fiction. I made the following notes during the meeting and thought I would share them here…

Creative non-fiction writing has been a genre for many years. In the mid-twentieth century, lots of American journalists hopped over into creative non-fiction. Many jobbing journalists saw the opportunity to produce longer, creative pieces.

Notable writers who wrote creative non-fiction include Tom Wolf, Mark Twain and Truman Capote. John Hersey wrote a series of articles about Hiroshima after he visited the city in 1946, not long after the bombing. While in Hiroshima, Hersey found five regular people, including a priest and a woman who worked in a typing pool, and asked them to tell him what they had been doing immediately before the bomb exploded.

He wrote the accounts of these people in ‘snap shot’ form. The woman from the typing pool described what she was doing, turned her head, saw a flash… This part of her story ended here and was picked up again later.

Hersey’s work was deemed so important that Einstein bought a 1,000 copies of the book and the BBC and ABC stopped regular broadcasting and read a chapter from the book each evening.

This shows the power of creative non-fiction. Describing the emotion and the feeling can enliven accounts, make them interesting and relevant. Feelings and emotions are universal, we all experience them to varying degrees. Hersey’s book drew out the universal themes. We all have cornflakes and toast for breakfast. We all go to work in the morning and wish we haven’t laddered our pantyhose on the way,

Creative non-fiction writers take the facts and apply their writerly skills to them to make the facts sing and dance. Everybody brings their own life experiences to the truth.

The truth differs for everyone. There have been scientific studies using functional MRI scans which demonstrate that each time a person recalls a memory and then ‘closes’ it, it changes slightly.

There are often as many different answers to a question as there are people answering them – even when people have been in the same room when a group of people wearing ski masks barge in.

When Di wrote On a Wing and a Prayer, she used historical records to show that Amy Johnson and her husband were having a difficult time in the plane. While Di could not be certain of exactly what went on in the cockpit, she used signifiers to tell the reader exactly what parts were factual and what parts were creative, such as writing “of this we can be sure”.

In her creative non-fiction writing, Di follows the premise that she can sign her name at the bottom of each page she writes to confirm none of it is made up.

Creative non-fiction – and stories in general – are how we make sense of the world. In the early days of humanity, there is evidence to suggest that people told stories to educate their tribes; stories about where the best berries could be found or what happened in their quest for food. People learn through stories and stories can change the way people think.


Di Websdale-Morrissey is a non-fiction writer and a teacher. She lives in Melbourne.

The thrilling tale of an aviation escapade dreamed up by Melbourne’s Lord Mayor in the 1930s- a London to Melbourne air race that captured the world’s attention and told a remarkable Australian story.

In 1934, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor announced a London-to-Melbourne air race to celebrate his city’s centenary.

The audacious plan captured imaginations across the globe- newspapers and magazines everywhere were filled with it; the world’s pilots scrambled to get sponsorship; and the organisers scrambled to get the rules straight and permission to fly in foreign air space. Sixty-four entrants from eleven countries signed up, but only twenty planes eventually took off on 20 October 1934. The winner arrived in Melbourne seventy-one hours later-but three planes crashed and two pilots died in the attempt.

The world followed the progress and applauded the winners, Britain’s Grovsenor House (outright) and The Netherlands’ Uiver (on handicap), but the real climax of the story is the astonishing efforts by the town of Albury in saving the Uiver as it battled through a fierce thunderstorm with no navigational aids, guiding the tiny plane to an emergency landing in the middle of the town with the most quick-thinking, imaginative response to its terrifying predicament.

This heroic race, considered the greatest single sporting event in the history of aviation, is a tale of eccentric characters, daring deeds and sublime courage. Di Websdale-Morrissey’s page-turning account will have readers holding their breaths, just as the world did eighty-five years ago.

Members then took a short break for lunch with many delicious shared plates, including a traditional yoghurt dip/side dish and crackers made by Lee Hirsh, and Mock Chicken wraps made by Jennifer McInnes. Thank you to everyone for bringing along a plate to share.

Jennifer’s Mock Chicken recipe will be included in the next President’s letter.

The second part of the meeting included a presentation from staff at Library at the Dock who gave an overview of the resources available and how to access them.

Share and Enjoy !

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