The Path to Publication, part 6: What is Creative Non-fiction?

imageWriting is like building a spider’s web. Create a point of connection, attach it to another, and another, until a whole network — a piece of art; a story — has been built.

Each point of learning, each experience, each conversation, each sentence I write is slowly building a story, the overall design of which, although I am the one writing it, is as yet unclear.

Although this post isn’t specifically about publication, it is very much a part of my journey of learning; more points of connection in this web that is my story.

It’s now a week since I returned from the writing conference — and what a week it was! I somehow beat my own writing record (not something I was intending to do and won’t be in a hurry to try again) and researched and submitted three articles in less than 24 hours. By the time I hit send on that feature story at 5pm on Thursday, I was as tired as when I hiked up and back down Vermont’s highest mountain (another feat I’m not in any rush to repeat).

Today, it felt justifiable to take a day off from the freelancing frenzy to sit in the sun and do a little blogging. And to revisit these pages of notes from the conference. So let’s talk about the overall Creative Nonfiction, the fastest growing genre — and my genre — for a moment.

What is Creative Nonfiction?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Lee Gutkind, founder of the Creative Nonfiction magazine had some gems to share on this topic. Here is a mixture of his points (direct quotes are his) and my analysis:

Creative Nonfiction:

Knowledge through Narrative: “Telling stories that matter to the world.”

Stories with Substance: It is a balance of personal experience and a sharing of information (the emphasis being on the substance/information). You share your story in order to tell a larger story.

Like fiction, it must have characters, scenes, plot, climax, resolution. But above all, it must relay information — teach something (NOT preach something).

Why CNF?

“The brain is wired for story.” Humans naturally create stories about everything in our world.

It teaches us empathy through personal connection and resonance. When a story appeals to our feelings we will remember the information. When a writer shares their “obsessions” and the particular world they are immersed in — be that a medical situation, a home-building project, acts of activism, etc. — they will always find an unique twist on the subject even if it has been covered before, because it is through the author’s unique eyes/experience that it is now being seen.

And Memoir?

The private story + the public one with reflection on what it all means, i.e. WHY I am telling you my story.

To read snippets of my memoir, “Leaving Fundamentalism in Search of  Voice,” click here.


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