Lessons Learned from the Nieman Narrative Nonfiction Conference (I)

I have just returned from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the 2005 Nieman Narrative Nonfiction Conference, and I’ll be happy to tell you about some things I learned in this and subsequent posts (and you can look forward to a more coherent summary in the next Practicing Writer newsletter, too).

Here’s the first piece of news:

If you’re one of the many readers (and writers) who mourned the passing of DoubleTake you’ll no doubt be pleased to discover that the magazine is back. Represented by its new editors at the conference, DoubleTake/Points of Entry is “the marriage of a magazine (DoubleTake—quarterly from 1995-2003) that featured narrative stories, essays and narrative/documentary photography grounded in the liberal arts, and an academic journal (Points of Entry: Cross-Currents in Storytelling—annual 2003-2005) that featured narrative and professional/scholarly essays about narrative writing.”

Now published bi-annually from its offices in the English department at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, the magazine also has an online home here. That’s where you can learn more about current content and submission guidelines. (The only bad news here is financial: the magazine is pretty expensive [a single copy costs $15; an individual subscription is $25, which provides two issues], and it’s not paying its contributors.)

A Basic Definition of Creative Nonfiction

Another nugget from the MediaBistro Toolbox, this time a basic explanation of creative nonfiction courtesy of Lee Gutkind.

My favorite part of his statement is this:

“And there are two types of stories. One type is one’s own story. The other type is telling the stories of others.”

Got that? Sometimes it seems to me that some writers believe “creative nonfiction” is synonymous with (and limited to) “memoir.” It isn’t! Back in the day some of us learned about “creative nonfiction” as “literary journalism.” Sure, there are plenty of wonderful memoirs/first-person essays out there, and I certainly enjoy reading them. But please, let’s not forget that there’s more to creative nonfiction than memoir.

Look to hear more about nonfiction (specifically, “narrative nonfiction”) from me in a few days. I’m volunteering at the 2005 Nieman Narrative Conference in Boston. I spent four hours last night preparing folders, and there’s another folder-preparation session in store for me before I get to the actual event on Friday. But it’s all going to be worth it–what a line-up they’ve got….

Just a Reminder: Deadline Approaching!

This is just a reminder that Monday, September 19 is the postmark deadline if you’re planning to submit work to the Gwendolyn Brooks Center 2005 Literary Awards (previously mentioned in our July Practicing Writer newsletter). These annual awards in creative writing and criticism are offered in conjunction with the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference, which will take place this year October 19-22 at Chicago State University. Seven prizes in poetry, fiction, script writing, and literary criticism will be awarded as part of the Center’s “continuing efforts to encourage writing that explores, explicates, embraces, and celebrates the richness of Black World Culture.” See the website for specific descriptions of each award, including information on eligibility and honoraria. NO ENTRY FEE INDICATED.