The following is a growing list of excellent books on the subject of creative nonfiction. Whether or not you plan to attend the workshop, if you’re writing CNF, you might want to check some of these out. And if you have others to suggest, please leave the title in a comment!
I’ll start out with a book by one of our Faculty members for the 2011 CNF Workshop, Kristen Iversen. The book is Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. From the back cover:
Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is the first text to cover all of the major subgenres of this burgeoning field: the Memoir, the Personal Essay, Literary Journalism, Nature Writing, Biography and History, and the Nonfiction Novel. This comprehensive text balances model readings with practical exercises to help students develop their own writing styles and experiment with the techniques and subject matter native to each facet of creative nonfiction.
Each subgenre-specific chapter includes:
- Readings by professional writers and students
- Revision tips and strategies
- Advice for students and instructors on ways to create an effective workshop environment.
Next up is Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind. Keep It Real will clarify the ins and outs of writing creative nonfiction. Starting with the acknowledgment of sources, then running through fact-checking, metaphor, and navel gazing, and ending with writers’ responsibilities to their subjects, this book provides all the information writers need to write with verve while remaining true to their story.
Compression read it online!
Immersion read it online!
The Vagaries of Memory read an excerpt!
Note: this book is also available in paperback – see right.
Fourth up is an old standby, The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present (selected and with an introduction by Phillip Lopate). The Art of the Personal Essay was introduced to me by one of our CNF Workshop faculty, Neil White. In fact, Neil loaned me his personal copy last year, and I need to buy my own and return it! This is a treasure house of essays, to read for personal pleasure, for inspiration, and yes, to learn more about this very specific sub-genre of creative nonfiction. It should be studied, as Phillip Lopate says in the introduction, “because it is one of the most approachable and diverting types of literature we possess…. At the core of the personal essay is the supposition that there is a certain unity to human experience.” Know how good it feels to read something and think, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel!” It’s why we love comic strips like “Arlo and Janis” and “Family Circus” and “Zits.” We are all voyeurs at heart, and a good personal essay, like a good comic strip, gives us a look into our own lives through the work of an artist. Dinty Moore’s book on crafting the personal essay is great, but reading the masters is also a wonderful way to learn.
Fifth up is another “writing textbook” on loan to me from Neil White, the making of a story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, by Alice LaPlante. Read my post from March 18 to learn more about the treasures inside this 642-page volume. There’s lots to be gleaned here, but I focused on two points in Chapter One which pertain to creative nonfiction: “Resisting Paraphrase” and “On Sentiment and Sentimentality.” LaPlante also includes excerpts from lots of great CNF writers, like Anne Lamott and Maxine Hong Kingston and others.