Is Truth My New Fiction?

Haim Watzman

A couple weeks ago I published my first short story. That’s an important milestone in my career as a writer, since up until now I’ve only published journalism and non-fiction. But, in fact, it’s less of a breakthrough than it sounds, because I made my fiction debut in the pages of a news magazine, and everything my story recounts actually happened.

The story is called “Hagar,” my most recent “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report, which I cross-posted here on South Jerusalem. It’s about a dumpster cat who had kittens on my doorstep. This really happened, about two and a half years ago.

As journalists tend to do at middle age, I’ve long been getting itchy at the constraints imposed by my trade. For years, I’ve been getting more and more interested and involved in the practice of writing—style, structure, word choice, sound. Writing my two books, a memoir and a travel narrative, gave me an opportunity to experiment with telling a story in ways far different than my newspaper writing ever allowed. Writing them made my yearn to take the next step and write fiction. In a fictional narrative, I thought, I’d be freed from the constraints of writing only events as they happened about people I’d actually met.

When I took another look at the cat essay,

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