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Creative Nonfiction

An Exploration of Contemporary American Literature

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live." -- Joan Didion

Writers write, but what do they write these days? Books? Stories? Poems? or Blogs?
Fiction? Nonfiction? Both? Contemporary writers sometimes blur the line between
fiction and reality and combine traditional forms for a fresh way of reflecting on life.

Writers of creative nonfiction use standard elements of fiction to write about real
life events. The subgenres in creative nonfiction include personal essay, memoir,
travel/place essays, literary journalism (expanding on topics in news), and more.

Since ninth grade, you have probably read more creative nonfiction than you realize.
Remember reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote in 10th grade? In Unit Six, you
read excerpts from Hersey's A Noiseless Flash, Michael Herr's Dispatches, and
O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Each reads as if it is fiction, with vivid setting,
character details, imagery and figurative language. The authors arrange details to
keep their readers' attention, like a gripping plot would do. But the source of all of
these works is real life.

In addition to those works listed above, we will read others as models of essays that
you can write. Your fourth quarter essay will be creative nonfiction. Because
you are not expected to conduct extensive research for your essay, your choices for
type of essay are limited to memoir(which may include interviewing family or
friends), personal essay (which may require a bit of fact checking),
and travel/place essay (which also might require a bit of minor research). See
more on each type below.


1. Web quest with a partner. Use the starred sites Please open, save in
your H:/ drive, complete the assignment, then save in G:/ rive folder as

2. Complete an analysis form for any two essays of your choosing. See the list

3. Write a creative nonfiction essay and publish it in a class anthology. Your
essay should be no shorter than 500 words. It should employ typical
elements of fiction: setting, character, imagery, figurative language, theme,
etc. to tell a true story or relate a true event.

Richard Nordquist at Armstrong Atlantic State . This Boy's Life Personal essay What is a personal essay?  From The Guide to Grammar and Writing  A superb guide from Dr. from the prestigious Poynter Institute. sometimes called the fourth genre. includes a great definition. is all about. Post-Gazette Cultural Arts Writer  More from writer Susan Taylor Brown Writing your own essay Memoir What is memoir?  From the University Writing Center (University of Central Florida)  From Read/Write/Think  From Writer's Helper  From Chip Scanlon Models (*we will read):  *Russell Baker's "Make Something of Yourself. Angela's Ashes  Tobias Wolff.  From Bruce Dobler." an excerpt from Growing Up  Frank McCourt.  From Phil Drucker from the University of Idaho  On Creative nonfiction by Caroline Abels. Read more about creative nonfiction:  Chip Scanlon. describes what Creative Nonfiction.

an event/conflict. Theme Think about your topic. Leads that feature description. but remember. joy. and not simply to you. While . about relationships. your audience is your class. what you reveal about life is probably true for all people. you will be telling some kind of story. death. Topics are wide ranging. by William Least Heat Moon (in your red lit book)  Annie Dillard. imagery. in fact. humor. Introduction/Lead Begin your essay in a way that gets your readers wanting more. or anything else? These themes are only a few." from Ted Kooser's Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps  from Blue HIghways. Why are you really writing about it? What do you want your readers to know about life. Richard Nordquist at Armstrong Atlantic State University (some good advice in spite of the flashing gifs!) Models (*we will read):  *"Wild Plums. Either way. sorrow. University Models (*we will read):  *"You Are Now Entering the Human Heart" by Janet Frame Travel/Place essay What is a travel/place essay?  From Ms Hogue  Dr. what you reveal should be universally true. Body No matter what type of essay you write. a lot about. Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek and An American Childhood How to & Requirements Topic Choose a topic that you know something about. The topic should be relevant to everyone. Write a good lead. about love. That is. Your revelation about life can be small and simple or big and profound. Choose a topic that is appropriate for school and your audience. about people. or even an engaging dialog are interesting.

" Other literary elements  Dialog should be natural and should advance the story. You may have characters in action (something is happening). The ethos of the writer is important." or "on the other hand. . It could be so informal as to use slang here and there. but not formal transitions that sound stuffy. (Standardized for the anthology) Your essay needs a title. places and things Your essay should be no shorter than 500 words. Avoid digression. use 12 point Times New Roman. Your name and the date should go at the end. Don't use it if you don't need it. some may be short. or either.  Use paragraphs!  Use transitions. and double space. The combination is a common narrative technique. typed. See the format sample. like "therefore. Conclusion/Ending You won't be writing a standard summary conclusion. Some may be long. The purpose of your conclusion or ending is to make your essay feel finished." "whereas. you should be writing in paragraphs. humorous. especially in dialog. But even more than that. Use block style for paragraphing. Always keep your purpose in mind. How did those authors conclude their stories? Voice  Voice is an important aspect of creative nonfiction.  Use concrete details and descriptions of people.  You may use a mixture of first and third person.  Use inventive metaphors to get readers to see ideas in a new way. Look at the models of the essays we read in class. or more serious.  What style and tone are you using? Personal essays have an informal style. Will the narrative voice be casual and easy-going. Organization  Organize the details in a logical order to keep your readers' attention and to best tell the story. Look for it in the works we are not writing a five paragraph essay. it should create a lasting impression on the reader.

Herr  Make Something of Yourself. O'Brien  from Dispatches. List of essays in Unit Six for the analysis form:  A Noiseless Flash. The Middlewesterner  Listen to This American Life on the radio or through Podcasts. from Ted Kooser's Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps Print analysis form. Want to read more creative nonfiction?  Tom Montag's Blog. an excerpt from Growing Up by Russell Baker  You Are Now Entering the Human Heart by Janet Frame  Wild Plums. Hersey  Speaking of Courage. .