Saturday, July 26, 2008

Creative Non-Fiction

The FootnoteMaven writes an introduction to the genre of Creative Nonfiction, for those considering how to put their research into book form. I don't think I'm close to this, as I have only begun to research.

However, one of the links at the end of her post is to Creative Nonfiction (CNF), a literary journal for the genre that is approximately 15 years old. I remember reading the first three issues as textbooks in a college writing course back in 1995. I wasn't aware they were still around.

From the submission guidelines of the journal, one gets a good idea of how they define the genre:

What we're looking for:
  • Strong reportage
  • Well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice.
  • An informational quality or instructive element that offers the reader something to learn (an idea, concept or collection of facts, strengthened with insight, reflection and interpretation.)
  • A compelling, focused, sustained narrative that is well-structured, makes sense and conveys meaning.
Of course, bloggers write a lot of Creative Non Fiction, without perhaps knowing it. Whether the blogger is providing a narrative of what happened in their kitchen a couple hours previously, discussing recent political events, or writing about a tragic accident involving a great-uncle and a chiffonier. That entry, which I wrote last October, is probably the best example of Creative Nonfiction on my blog, though it is tragic, and borrows a lot from an audio transcript of my grandfather and one of his brothers.

However, any blog entry qualifies if it informs (provides tips on research, or information on ancestors), and does so via a narrative (This morning I drove to the library not knowing the treasure trove of information I would discover in the microfilm drawers...). Those who are scared by the novel-length form might prefer a series of essays on the life of each ancestor.

I would also like to expand the definition of the genre by eliminating one word from the guidelines CNF provies. Which word? "Prose." Poetry should be included in the genre. And not just poems that are written in a 'dramatic narrative' form, as if enough poems are grouped together, they can form a narrative. (Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology would be a perfect example of Creative Non Fiction - if he hadn't fictionalized the town, and the residents.)

Those who are seeking an alternative Family History structure might find a series of poems more fitting to their writing strengths. Or they might find a poem is a great way to open each chapter in a prose work.

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