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Creative nonfiction prose that fuses the conventions of reportage with the aesthetics of literature and the passion for self-expression is emerging as one of the most important contemporary genres, one that captures the imagination and commitment of student writers.Creating Nonfictionprovides everything students need to begin to understand and write creative nonfiction: an engaging rhetoric, an unsurpassed anthology, and a wealth of editorial features that inspire writing.
Becky Bradway (PhD Illinois State University) teaches in the MFA programs at Wilkes University, Northwestern University, and the University of Denver. She is author of Pink Houses and Family Taverns (2002), a collection of creative non-fiction essays, and editor of In the Middle of the Middle West: Literary Non-Fiction From the Heartland (2003). Her fiction and creative nonfiction has appeared in Ninth Letter, DoubleTake, Post Road, Antioch Review, and Hotel Amerika, among other places. Doug Hesse (PhD University of Iowa), is Founding Director of the Marsico Writing Program at the University of Denver and Professor of English. Past Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication and a former President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, Hesse previously taught at Illinois State University, where he directed the Honors Program and the writing program. His work has appeared in Essays on the Essay, Literary Nonfiction, CCC, JAC, The Encyclopedia of the Essay, and elsewhere.
Table of Contents
Alternative Contents by Topic
Alternative Contents by Subgenre
Alternative Contents by Techniques and Strategies
Part One: Meanings
Chapter 1: Defining Creative Nonfiction
A Visit to the Bookstore
What Creative Nonfiction is Probably Not
Chapter 2: Kinds of Creative Nonfiction
A Brief History
Critiques, Rants, and Reviews
Lyric and Reflective Essays
The City Essay
Part Two: Craft
Chapter 3: Form
Elements of Form
Chapter 4: Description
Description of a Place
Description of an Ordinary Thing or Activity
Description of a Person
Description That Moves the Action
Description for Its Own Sake
Chapter 5: Dialogue
Creating Mood Through Dialogue
Chapter 6: Style
Varieties of Style
Rhythm and Style
Point of View
Chapter 7: Revision
Figuring Out What it Needs
Revision Challenges Confronted by All Writers
Revising After a Piece is Accepted
Two Examples of Revised Work
Part Three: Research
Chapter 8: Written Sources
Types of Sources
When do Writers Research?
Chapter 9: Interviewing
Whom to Interview
Composing the Questions
Face to Face or Far Away?
Scrawls and Transcriptions
Literary Journalism and the Interview
Interviewing People You Know
Putting it All Together
Chapter 10: Ideas for Writing
In Class or On Your Own
Classroom Ideas for Writing
Part Four: Anthology
Steve Almond, from Candyfreak
"I hoped to seek out other purebred candyfreaks, men and women who still made bars the old way, in small factories, and who did so not primarily for profit but out of an authentic passion for candy bars."
Interview with Steve Almond
Margaret Atwood, "A Path Taken, with All the Certainty of Youth"
"If I had suspected anything about the role I would be expected to fulfill, not just as a writer, but as a female writer—how irrevocably doomed!--I would have flung my leaky blue blob-making ballpoint pen across the room…"
Tara Bahrampour, "Persia on the Pacific"
"Los Angeles and Iran lie at opposite ends of the world, but for the past twenty-five years – ever since the first Iranians fleeing the revolution established an exile outpost in L.A. – the two places have been closely linked."
Interview with Tara Bahrampour
Kim Barnes, "The Ashes of August"
"Born and raised with in a fifty-mile radius of where I now live, I have memories of late summer that are infused with fire."
Inteview with Kim Barnes
Gabrielle Bell, from Lucky [graphic memoir]\
"In order to sustain us through mind-numbing jobs, it is necessary to tell ourselves lies, and mine is that if only I was surrounded by France, I would no longer feel perpetually ill at ease."
Interview with Gabrielle Bell
Sven Birkerts, "Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man ; or, Why I Can't in Good Conscience Write about Noam Chomsky"
"I faced the difficult fact: I will do nothing overt to further causes I believe in – I will do nothing political."
Chester Brown, from Louis Riel [graphic biography]
"Why have I been brought here? I’m not crazy! I’m a prophet! I must free my people!"
Wanda Coleman, "The Evil Eye"
"He’s blinded by the sight of a mixed couple and huffs around us in a hostile orbit."
Interview with Wanda Coleman
Frank Conroy, "A Yo-Yo Going Down, A Mad Squirrel Coming Up"
"I was, in the language of jazz, ‘up tight’ with my yo-yo, and finally free, in one small area at least, of the paralyzing sloppiness of life in general."
Dennis Covington, from Salvation on Sand Mountain
"Red hair flying, speaking in tongues, she had lifted up the pile of snakes to eye level and shouted at them until her face turned crimson, and then she had dropped them back onto the pulpit …."
Guy Delisle, from Pyongyang [graphic memoir]
"Buried 90 meters underground, the Pyongyang subway can double as a bomb shelter in case of nuclear attack. What better way to cultivate a constant sense of threat?"
Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"
"Without pause or preamble, silent as orbits, a piece of the sun want away."
Debbie Drechsler, "The Dead of Winter" [graphic memoir]
"Yeah, well. Also, someone has to go with me. To the clinic. For the abortion. You know. Just in case."
"Yeah, sure. Listen, I gotta go."
Interview with Debbie Drechsler
David James Duncan, "What Fundamentalists Need for Their Salvation"
"The majority of challenges to the printed word in American schools, libraries, and bookstores are made by people who call themselves ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘evangelical’ Christians."
Interview with David James Duncan
Gerald Early, "’I Only Like It Better When the Pain Comes’: More Notes Toward a Cultural Definition of Prizefighting"
"It should come as a surprise to no one, knowing modern prizefighting’s national and racial origins, that the sport extols most simply and directly the values that the Anglo-Saxon male has historically cherished most: the indomitable will of the individual, aggressive conquest, and contempt for humiliation and submission."
Interview with Gerald Early
Dave Eggers, from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
"It is an unsaid mission of mine, the source of which is sometimes clear and sometimes not, to keep things moving, to entertain the boy, to keep him on his toes…. It’s an effort, I’m guessing, to let him know, if it weren’t already obvious, that as much as I want to carry on our parents’ legacy, he and I will also be doing some experimenting."
Miriam Engelberg, from Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person [graphic memoir]
"But if I expect pessimism to work, then I’m being optimistic. Which is bad. Isn’t it?"
Louise Erdrich, "Rock Paintings"
"Of course, the rock paintings are not just pointer signs. They hold far more significance. They refer to a spiritual geography, and are meant to provide teaching and dream guides to generations of Anishinaabeg."
Elizabeth Gilbert, from Eat, Pray, Love
"…Catherine. She’s my one and only sibling…. We were just beginning to hammer out the new terms of our relationship when my marriage went into a skid."
Laurence Gonzales, "Marion Prison"
"The administration of Marion, as well as the Bureau of Prisons, maintains that the population of USP-Marion, being radically different from all other prison populations, merits such radical conditions as total lockdown and justifies the forty thousand dollars per year per man that it costs to maintain those conditions."
Emily Hiestand, "Maps"
"Our town was then a kind of modern frontier village, insular and close, full of purpose and people pulling together, like immigrants to a new land."
Edward Hoagland, "Circus Music"
"In a circus you didn’t have to – weren’t supposed to – avert your eyes, and that may have been its ultimate kick."
Denis Johnson, "Run, Rudolph, Run"
"Eric Robert Rudolph will be formally charged in October for the Northside clinic bombing. Some Bible-based Christians believe that any business offering to stop the human organism’s growth in the womb deals in murder, and that whoever kills a man or woman working there saves lives."
Interview with Denis Johnson
Jennifer Kahn, "Notes from a Parallel Universe"
"Judging from the reams of odd theories sent daily to science journals, universities, and researchers, science cranks are more prolific than ever."
Interview with Jennifer Kahn
Barbara Kingsolver, "Household Words"
"…Homelessness as a significant problem occurs in countries stricken by war, famine, plague, and natural disaster. And here, in the USA. Why are we not carrying on with ourselves, our neighbors, and the people who represent us the conversation that begins with the question, What on earth is wrong with us?"
Maxine Hong Kingston, "A Sea Worry"
"As they watched for the next wave, the boys turned toward the ocean…. When a good wave arrived, they turned, faced shore, and came shooting in, some taking the wave to the right and some to the left, their bodies fishlike, one arm out in front, the hand and fingers pointed before them, like a swordfish’s beak."
Interview With Maxine Hong Kingston
Amitava Kumar, from "Traveling Light"
"Our freedom as a later generation of Indians has also meant a freedom from Gandhi worship."
Interview with Amitava Kumar
Li-Young Lee, from The Winged Seed
"And I see now his faith is his God was learning to winter-out those Pennsylvania winters and those hard communions. But if those communions were difficult, were they empty?... Was my father wasting his time? Was he wasting his life?"
Maya Lin, "Between Art and Architecture"
"…I did not want to civilize war by glorifying it or by forgetting the sacrifices involved."
Paul Lisicky, "New World"
"Things are happening inside my head. One minute I work on a new song, which I’m planning to send to the producers of The Partridge Family, the next I think about the street names in Cambridge Park, a development under construction near our house in Cherry Hill. Everyone who knows me knows that I want to be a builder, a famous builder, like Bill Levitt, when I’m older."
Interview with Paul Lisicky
Norman Mailer, "The Faith of Graffiti"
"There was always art in a criminal act—no crime could ever be as automatic as a production process—but graffiti writers were opposite to criminals, since they were living through the stages of the crime in order to commit an artistic act…."
Demetria Martinez, "Inherit the Earth"
"With a patience that rivals Job’s, the migrant gathers information, plans, packs, says good-bye to her family, then strikes out. It is not Disneyland she hopes for, but dignity."
"The Things They Carried"
"…empty plastic water jugs, a backpack, a baby bottle, soap, Colgate toothpaste, a hairbrush, a sardine can, a sock, and used AeroMéxico tickets."
Michael Martone, "Manufacturing Place"
"When we speak of place we often speak of our sense of it, its constant though peripheral presence. That is, there is no such thing as a place, only our own inscription of it we carry around in our own nervous systems."
Interview with Michael Martone
Cris Mazza, "A Girl Among Trombonists"
"What teenager doesn’t want to get up on Saturday at four in the morning, get on a bus at six to get to a parade route at eight, spend four or five hours on a hot September day in a decidedly unsexy wool uniform and hat, soaking undergarments with sweat and causing the gnarly-est case of hat-hair ever seen."
Interview with Cris Mazza
Brenda Miller, "Next Year in Jerusalem"
"Though I was a nonreligious Jew, I had still expected to feel something as I crossed into the Promised Land. I expected some twinge of recognition or arrival."
Rick Moody, from The Black Veil
"So the craft is about language, by which I mean that though my father and grandfather might have more completely welcomed me into the patrimonial lineage of Moodys had I become a bona fide salesman, maybe being a writer and being a salesman are not so different…."
Interview with Rick Moody
Susan Orlean, "A Place Called Midland"
"I went to Midland expecting to find an ordinary small city, but nothing about it was ordinary: not its weather or its topography or its history or its economy….It’s a manic-depressive city, spending lavishly and then suffering desperately."
Cynthia Ozick, "What Helen Keller Saw"
"She saw, then, what she wished, or was blessed, to see, and rightly named it imagination. In this she belongs to a wider class than that narrow order of the tragically deaf-blind. Her class, her tribe, hears what no healthy ear can catch, and sees what no eye chart can quantify."
Gary Panter, "Nightmare Studio" [graphic work]
"The dream studio, unlike its waking counterpart, is a vast derelict factory building packed with metal. With people coming and going. A real creepy front door."
Leila Philip, "Green Tea"
"I sat transfixed; in the small room, her tall, graceful figure seemed to float. The iron kettle, resting on its sunken bed of coals, softly hissed. The next hour passed in a series of stylized rites for receiving and drinking the bowls of frothy whipped green tea."
Jonathan Rauch, "Caring for Your Introvert"
"Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life."
Joe Sacco, from Palestine [graphic journalism]
"Gunshot injuries! Broken bones! Amputees! The intifada I know from appendices in small press books!"
Interview with Joe Sacco
Leslie Marmon Silko, "Uncle Tony’s Goat"
"This goat was big and black and important to my uncle Tony because he’d paid a lot to get him and because he wasn’t an ordinary goat."
Sharon Solwitz, "Abracadabra"
"Once upon a time a woman gave birth to twin sons…. Thirteen years passed, then one got sick. In the year that followed he was sick and better, then very sick, then a little better. He died. His mother, however, remained alive."
Rory Stewart, "The Missionary Dance"
"I sat down and wrote a long letter to my parents, in case I was killed. In the past sixteen months I had bribed, flattered, pried, bullied, begged and wheedled in order to continue my walk. I was more of a tramp than a mystic, but as I wrote I felt at peace."
Sheryl St. Germain, "Nigger: Notes from a New Orleans Daughter"
"I am what I am, for better or worse, as a writer, at least partly because of what I learned from the black culture of New Orleans."
Interview with Sheryl St. Germain
Craig Thompson, from Blankets [graphic novel]
"Everything Raina had ever given me, I burned."
Touré, "What’s Inside You, Brother?"
"The one who makes everyone laugh loudest wins. And as with the dozens, sometimes it hurts, but when it’s done by your own, to strengthen you for the onslaught from without, you know that a beatdown is really a buildup and you just keep on."
C. Tyler, "Sub Zero" [graphic memoir]
"Sit down. Close yer mouth. Put yer feet on the floor. Knees under the desk, please. Leave her alone. Stop talking. Pay attention 1…2…3… bite my … oops!"
Interview with C. Tyler
Luis Alberto Urrea, from Across the Wire
"In the Tijuana dompe, the outcasts were located along the western edge of the settlement in shacks and lean-tos, in an area known as ‘the pig village.’ This was where the untouchables of this society of untouchables slept, among the pigs awaiting slaughter."
David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"
"So then here is a question that’s all but unavoidable at the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, and may arise in kitchens across the US: Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does ‘all right’ even mean in this context? Is the whole thing just a matter of personal choice?"
Interview with David Foster Wallace
S. L. Wisenberg, "Holocaust Girls/Lemon"
"You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Holocaust Girl. But it helps…What matters most is that you must love suffering."
Interview with S. L. Wisenberg
Karen Tei Yamashita, "June: Circle K Recipes"
"In Japan, rice must be sticky and polished white. One eats the purity of it. It doesn’t matter if its nutrition is negligible."
Interview with Karen Tei Yamashita