What’s the Story #22

In the lead essay in this issue, “Creative Nonfiction in the Crosshairs,” I respond to the recent barrage of criticism from journalists and critics about creative nonfiction and the evolution of the literature of reality. The writers in this issue have recognized this evolution and are expanding the scope of their achievements by crossing genres, which is, as I have noted in my essay, a hallmark of creative nonfiction.

Throughout her distinguished career, Diana Hume George has written poetry, criticism, and creative nonfiction. “Zane Grey on a Carousel in Indian Territory” embraces all three genres to expose long-standing stereotypes of Native American men as sexual predators. George was inspired by a hackneyed Hallmark made-for-TV Easter special, but big-budget Hollywood fare such as Ron Howard’s latest, “The Missing,” also mines the familiar—and, George admits, appealing—American fantasy.

In “Hoop Sex,” novelist Theodore Weesner, author of “Car Thief” and other highly praised fiction, chose the essay form to explore the inherent sexuality in recreational sports, specifically basketball vs. baseball.

Over the years, Creative Nonfiction has introduced writers to many exciting new writers, including Lauren Slater (“Welcome to My Country”) and Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down”). In this issue, we’re proud to feature an essay by Erin O’Neill White, a creative-writing instructor and M.F.A. candidate at the University of Massachusetts. Her “East Wind” deftly fuses memoir and travelogue in a lyrical reflection on foreign landscapes, both physical and familial. 

And finally, in the spirit of creative nonfiction, two of our contributors give behind-the-scenes, first-person accounts of two very different worlds: police work and literature-textbook publishing. Laurie Lynn Drummond tells funny, often frightening stories about days as a police officer in Baton Rouge, La. “Girl, Fighting” is an excerpt from her unpublished collection, “Losing My Gun.” Her new book, “Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You,” was just published by HarperCollins. Sallie Tisdale, author of the best-selling “Talk Dirty To Me,” discusses the complications of having work reprinted, reproduced, edited and degraded by inane “Review questions” in introductory literary textbooks.

Despite frequent criticism and skepticism, writers, academics and arts organizations are joining the creative nonfiction movement in ever-increasing numbers. Creative Nonfiction’s 10th-anniversary celebrations are ongoing. We are collecting work of Mexican and Mexican-American writers for an upcoming issue funded by the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture. We are also seeking original essays about baseball for a double issue to be published jointly with the Southern Illinois University Press’s Writing Baseball Series. Our incredible 25th issue of Creative Nonfiction, to be published later this year by W. W. Norton, will feature the best 25 essays we have published over the past 10 years.

We’re also planning two writers’ conferences for 2004. The ninth Annual Mid-Atlantic Creative Nonfiction Summer Writers’ Conference, co-sponsored by Goucher College, will begin August 10 in Baltimore, Md. In November, Creative Nonfiction will host a national literary festival in our hometown, Pittsburgh, funded in part by the Sprout Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts, in honor of our achievements over the last 10 years. Look for announcements in upcoming advertisements, or e-mail [email protected] for details. 

About the Author

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Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind is the author and editor of more than thirty books, including You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between, Almost Human: Making Robots Think, The Best Seat in Baseball: But You Have to Stand, Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather, and the award-winning, Many Sleepless Nights: The World of Organ Transplantation.

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