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Lessons Learned from the Nieman Narrative Nonfiction Conference (III)

OK. Here are my final thoughts (for the moment) about something I gleaned from the conference. (I know I promised a conference summary in the next newsletter, but I’d rather devote the space to the words and wisdom of a fantastic interviewee. Watch the newsletter for the interview!)

This last lesson actually returns to an issue highlighted in a previous post, which quoted Lee Gutkind’s reminder that “There are two types of stories. One type is one’s own story. The other type is telling the stories of others.”

As I’ve said before, I’ve encountered many creative nonfiction writers who seem to believe that the genre is synonymous with–and limited to–memoir. Looking outward is far from the point–interpreting one’s own experience is.

So it was interesting to find at this conference–attended by so many practicing newspaper and magazine journalists–that some people focus too much on the opposite and really have to learn how to bring their own narrative, first-person voice into a work of nonfiction. They know how to “report” on other people, but they may need to slow down and craft other characters: themselves.

Still, here’s the overall message: there’s room for everyone at the narrative table.

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