1/9 – Intro to Creative Non-Fiction (CNF)

Daily Warm Up: What would you shoplift? Why?

Daily Focus: Okay, so I’ll be honest. I used to dread this unit. I feel like you’ve been writing personal narratives since you were in 3rd grade (in fact, I KNOW you have because my 3rd grader is bringing them home).

So the question is, what is NEW that we can do with creative non-fiction? This is a genre that’s hybridized and expanding and bizarre and offers us some pretty keen opportunities for self-awareness, both as writers and as human beings.

So let’s start in a place we may not have before: form. Creative Non-Fiction is the genre most adaptable to different forms, I think. We have Vlogs and Twitter/Instagram personas crafted in those mediums. Jacqueline Woodson won a National Book Award for a memoir written entirely in poems. Heather Weber, an Iowa City writer, wrote her memoir as letters to her dead brother, and David Levithan tweets in dictionary definitions based on his mem-novel, The Lover’s Dictionary.

We’ll look at the Dictionary together as a sample.

So for Today’s Experiment, I’m going to ask you to show a moment of your life through a dictionary definition, just like Levithan. Think of it as The Student’s Dictionary. You get one entry. What will it be?

Note that many of techinques we’ve discussed in FICTION and POETRY apply in this new genre–Levithan isn’t being abstract or general. His words are concrete and specific: “antiperspespirant” and “antsy” among others. He talks about Whole Foods and the opera and pound cake, about as concrete as you can get.

Plus, Levithan gives us direct dialogue and direct actions–the interiority comes to us from free indirect style; he’s SHOWING, not telling.


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