Telling True Stories
Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, editors

Creative non fiction is a sort of writing, a sort of approach to communication, that adds depth and humanity and insight to the reporting of fact and the relating of narrative. It’s also a genre that gets a lot of people in trouble, just by its very name. Creative non fiction, people ask? Doesn’t that mean you play fast and loose with the facts? How can I trust what you write? and how do you know all that stuff anyway?

Those who write this way ask themselves those same questions, along with craft and creative ones of how to do this well, and ethical ones of how to be accountable to the reader and how to value the humanity of their sources. They also question where to find the best stories, or the right stories, and how to tell them, and how the perspectives of editors can help, or not, in the shaping of such articles. Mark Kramer, from Harvard’s Nieman Center for Journalism, and Wendy Call, form the Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s Literary Center, have collected the ideas of more than four dozen writers who practice creative non fiction in book, newspaper, magazine, and journal writing. These writers and editors offer their thoughts in three to five page essays and sometimes in three to five paragraph short takes which range across craft, skill, idea, business, ethics, editing, and finding and telling story.

  • Jan Wilburn, currently with the Atlanta Journal Constitution on finding good topics:
    “Ask yourself: is the ending really another beginning? Endings mark the beginnings of new stories about to unfold.”

  • The late David Halberstram, author of Firehouse and The Best and the Brightest, on the narrative idea:
    “Telling a good story demands a great conception, a great idea for why a story works — for what it is and how it connects to the human condition .”

  • Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost among others, on travel writing:
    “As writers and as readers we should look for ways that the outer journey can mirror the inner journey. That is not only what good travel writing is about, it’s what life is about.”

    The journey of this book is the varied ways to tell, as the title suggests, true stories. The setting is much like having all these vigorous and competing voices sitting around the living room pitching in with ideas, war stories, tips, and reflections.

    Kerry Dexter writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road

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