- A bullet point summary by Angele’ Anderfuren @AngeleOutWest
- Megan Kimble @MeganKimble
- Lisa O’Neill @LisaMOneill_
- Katherine E. Standefer @girlmakesfire
- Hattie Fletcher of @cnfonline
- The intersection of journalism and creative nonfiction.
- The differences in reporting a story and telling a story.
- The telling of our truths, of a truth, of another’s truths.
- Objectivity and perspective.
Defining the topic:
- Reported material
- A story based on verifiable facts
- Not usually first person, but could be in some instances
- The destination
Creative Nonfiction/Essay is…
- Stories with less of a formal structure
- Often first person in the story
- The experience of discovering truth
- Story out of what’s really happening
- Using the devices of fiction to tell a true story
How journalism can help or hinder the form:
Katherine, comes from a fiction and poetry writing background before being a journalist:
- Journalism helped me limit my scope and make sure the right stakeholders are involved in the conversation
- Projects start personal and grow outwards
- I became a better nonfiction writer by examining how other peoples’ stories related to my story
- Asks, how do I bring a reader into the sensory world, how do I making meaning associatively?
- One thing journalism has to offer is clarity of purpose in the story
Lisa, was a general assignments reporter for small newspaper in Louisiana, then did PR for a nonprofit:
- I came to writing as a way to make sense of the world
- I wanted to be a journalist because I saw journalism as a way to create change
- I loved the diversity of the job
- I found myself frustrated because I had opinions about things and felt that objectivity in journalism was limited and not entirely true
- I was aware how I was shaping stories by who I was putting first
- One thing I think about is: How much I need to be in the piece?
- What do I have to offer as a narrator versus a witness?
- It is really important to me to include other people’s voices
Hattie, Managing Editor for Creative Nonfiction magazine:
- We don’t always talk about the history of creative nonfiction
- There are two strands to the history:
- St Augustan and Montaigne
- An evolutionary strand from journalism and new journalism
- Journalism was assumed to be authoritative knowledgeable, objective, just-the-facts writing
- But a lot of writers came to say that is crap
- There’s been a steady infusion of first person journalism, not the front page but in the features
- CNF the magazine comes more out of that second thread, the new journalism thing
- We have a preference for information-based narrative.
- But we try to provide spaces to accommodate more of the genre.
- We do more fact checking than most; we draw the line on calling people’s family members.
- There’s enough of a debate in CNF already, so you must verify what’s verifiable. If you don’t, that undermines the credibility of the story that is being told.
Differences in craft…
- First real job out of school was as an assistant for the LA Times. Was told, if your sentence doesn’t contain a paragraph’s worth of information, it is not a good sentence.
- Creative Nonfiction magazine and the Atlantic article – a comparison
· Recently Joe Fassler had his essay “Wait Times” published in CNF (4500 word version) and a shorter (2500 word version) published in The Atlantic with the title “How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously: When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.”
- The CNF version of the story has some reflection, about the medical system, what it is like to see someone you love in pain
- The Atlantic had a better title, more grab-able and sharable, tons of comments
- Fundamentally the same story
- Joe preferred the longer version with the space to reflect, artistic space
- “A lot of the nuance of the story got lost”
- “It is a completely different reading experience.”
- Internet journalism, it’s kind of about fanning the flames.
- You’re not expecting to be surprised
Ethical obligation as journalists/writers of CNF…
- Similar to the way a reader is going to show up differently, I show up differently depending on the piece that I am working on
- I am sort of a character along the way but I don’t know what way I will appear in the story, how much will get cut out
- Relationships are the priority in my writing
- My time in public relations is really helpful
- Some journalists would come in with no sense of the complexities of a person’s stories
- I come out of that with a need to feel authentic and recognize the power dynamic at play
- I consider when I bring in a voice recorder and when I don’t, putting in time with people
- Who I am is really clear in the persona
What about the I…
- Absence vs presence of the narrator changes the piece
- I always have to ask, is this person necessary here?
- The “I” can help guide readers and show them how to get there
- Information rich writing also needs to be personal
- The reporter needs to be present in some way
- I don’t want the solution to be “put yourself in it,” but that is often what we need to answer, why you are writing this story.
- A personal investment has to be shown in the narrative.
- What is the lynch pin of the story?
- Does something in my life or experience illuminate something in the story?
- Can it bring something to the reader?
- Will it be about me in a way that is distracting from the story?
- Will it compromise what the story is truly about?
- Book rec: Katherine Boo – Behind the Beautiful Forevers
- The final section of the book is on her research
- She interviewed the same people multiple times to check out the story, interviewing other witnesses
- She didn’t need her presence in the story to be credible
- Including myself becomes this tool, it is credibility from recognizing the reporting of the reporting
- What are ways in which I have to acknowledge my privilege and my understanding of the place or lack of understanding
- Filtering the information that is the truthiness journalism through personal experience
- What can any one person do with big issues?
- Who am I to write this?
- The I can be an accessible way into a daunting, big topic
- Bringing readers along on that journey with you