There is nothing like spending time in a bookstore. When I know exactly what I want, I love the convenience of ordering online, but despite websites’ best efforts to share what others “also ordered,” I rarely discover anything new and exciting that way. In contrast, a perfect Friday night at our house starts with dinner in one of Ann Arbor’s many restaurants, then a stroll to one of our favorite bookstores for browsing (and perhaps a stop for gelato later, to make things really perfect!)
But gelato or no, our hours in bookstores have resulted in a house—and an ipad–full of books we’d never known before meeting them on the shelf. This week I had that experience with a magazine. I’ll admit I rarely look at magazine racks. I can’t keep up with the professional journals that feel like “must” reading, so it is hard to think about adding to the monthly collection. So it was just by happenstance that on my way out the bookstore door my eye was caught by a title, Creative Nonfiction.
Huh? I’ll admit with embarrassment that not only had I never heard of a publication that has been around for more than 20 years, I’d never heard of the term “creative nonfiction” at all. I’ll admit it. I wasn’t an English major. For those as uniformed as I was, creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction) is a genre of non-fiction that uses the techniques of fiction to write about real events, people, and places. It is truth (or at least an understanding of truth), well crafted. It can include such things as travel writing and personal essays—as Creative Nonfiction the magazine states, “True stories. Well told.” And they are. I spend hours enjoying the ideas in the magazine and be beauty with which they are crafted.
It occurred to me that the quarterly magazine would be a fine resource for high school students, and an introduction to a writing form that is rarely discussed. Particularly in this era when the focus is on critical reading and well supported writing, students may come to believe there is nothing between fairy tales and academic research papers. Creative Nonfiction offers a variety of options for class purchases, so that (or your local well-stocked magazine rack) might be a place to begin. If you are interested in more resources for teaching creative (or literary) fiction, Purdue’s wonderful Online Writing Lab (OWL) site offers a variety of materials and strategies for teaching creative nonfiction to students grades 7-12. You also may find the “Five R’s” in Lee Gutkind’s essay on creative nonfiction useful. The Poets and Writers website offers weekly writing prompts—on Thursdays they post creative nonfiction prompts. Imagine a school collection of creative nonfiction—it could be quite wonderful.
If you want to start small, consider the tiny essays in Creative Nonfiction’s cnftweet Twitter feed.
How much fun are these?
I open the chocolate covered pretzels, promise myself I will only eat the broken ones.The bag topples to the floor. Moral dilemma. #cnftweet
These brittle, straw lawns are the color of drought, of surrender. They’ve given up on the clouds, as I have. Together we wither. #cnftweet
The radishes sprout like little hairs in my garden, pushing up to meet the rain as if that’s all there is to living. #cnftweet
Think about students crafting personal essays in 120 characters. I’d love to read them. If you try it, please share.