Creative Nonfiction: Telling the Truth
July 12 – July 17, 2015
Creative nonfiction reports back to us from what we call the real world, its subject matter “documentable . . . as opposed to ‘invented’ from the writer’s mind,” as Barbara Lounsberry puts it. Its subgenres are many: the personal essay; the essay of place; nature writing; family portraits; memoir; and writing about war, travel, adventure, food, and the like. Creative nonfiction tells stories based in fact, often heavily researched, but always filtered through the lens of what Joan Didion calls “the implacable ‘I’,” and crafted with tools borrowed from fiction’s toolbox: narrative voice, character, plot, description, dialogue. What good creative nonfiction offers, writes David Foster Wallace, is “clarity, precision, plainness, lucidity, and the sort of magical compression that enriches instead of vitiates. . . It serves as models and guides for how large or complex sets of facts can be sifted, culled, and arranged in meaningful ways—ways that yield and illuminate truth instead of just adding more noise to the overall roar.”
We can begin to experience the particular richness and variety of creative nonfiction in the short texts we read. Writers engaged include Didion, Susan Sontag, Teju Cole, Natalia Ginzburg, Orhan Pamuk, Richard Rodriguez, Luc Sante, Zadie Smith, Terry Tempest Williams, William Gass, Rebecca Solnit, and Eula Biss, among others. In the short texts we write during the workshop, we focus on how these writers operate within their subgenre, and use their works as a springboard into our own creative nonfictions, keeping in mind how we might teach our students to do the same.
Workshop fee: $1,300.00. The fee includes tuition and a single-occupancy dorm room on the Bard College campus, meals (beginning with Sunday dinner and ending with Saturday breakfast), and materials. The commuter fee is $1,000.00.