NWU members and authors Bill Fletcher Jr. and Tim Sheard enjoyed a provocative discussion July 16 about storytelling and social justice at the Busboys & Poets Takoma bookshop in the Washington D.C. area.
Moderator Kurt Stand asked Fletcher, who is the author of The Man Who Fell From the Sky, and Sheard, who wrote One Foot in the Grave, about how literature can help mobilize people to fight for their rights and demand dignity, whether its on the job or within the community.
The two authors discussed the research that goes into writing. Both were challenged in the Q&A about the limits of reform struggles, with one attendee asking if the novel was not an inherently a bourgeois art form. This led to a lively exchange about what sets working-class novels apart from those with upper class/wealthy protagonists, such as Jane Austin’s novels.
Sheard reminded the audience that “there’s no such thing as fiction,” because fiction writers aim to identify important human truths. Fletcher asserted that his novel’s marginalized and exploited ethnic groups—such as the Cape Verdean-American characters in his novel—express the aspirations of people who have been denied their rights and their rightful opportunities.
All in all it was a robust discussion and an enjoyable evening, with Sheard championing the National Writers Union and inviting writers in the audience to learn more about the NWU.