Creative nonfiction, a new writing genre!

Well, only relatively new as an actual genre, but completely new to me.

As soon as I saw it, I loved it! And the reason I loved it so much is that as soon as I read about it, I saw . . . that’s what I write.

I was working on my seminar “Teaching Writing by Teaching Rewriting. ” But I started rethinking the seminar’s two parts: “Rewriting Nonfiction” and “Rewriting Fiction.”

Frankly, this traditional division was becoming more and more dissatisfying.

Because I write nonfiction, but I write it like a story. I find really good true stories—the kind that show how great God is—and I rewrite them, with natural dialogue and specific descriptions. I imagine myself there, and seek to bring my readers there with me.

That’s what I’ll be talking about to teachers in Orlando in a couple of weeks.

So really, does the description of my own writing fit under the Nonfiction section, or the Fiction? Not really nonfiction, since I use my imagination to fill out details.

But it’s not fiction either, because the stories are true.

Creative Nonfiction. What a great genre! It describes all the stories we write that are basically true but have details filled in.

If you’re working on a memoir and have a thousand memories all jumbled together, this is your genre. You want to tell what really happened, but you may have to guess at the order of events; you want to  include dialogue that’s as close to the original as possible but might not be exactly accurate; you want to describe details the way they might have been, probably were, but you’re not exactly sure. . . .

So I’m changing my seminar divisions. The first section will be expository writing, the kind we think of as “nonfiction.”

The second section will be “Rewriting Stories,” and it won’t matter if they’re imaginary stories or true stories. How can we present stories as powerfully as possible?  I’m excited that I get to teach teachers about it, because this is my passion.


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