Friday, September 16, 2011

We Are All Students

My first adult education class on writing, publishing and promoting your nonfiction book was Wednesday night. The roster from the college indicated that 14 people had signed up for the class. But I actually ended up with 16 students! How amazing is that? After I had each person introduce him/herself, mention the book topic and what he/she hoped to get out of the class, I asked if everyone knew the difference between fiction and nonfiction. The class does not cover fiction writing because it is written and marketed differently than nonfiction. This opened up a lively discussion of the subtle nuances, sometimes, between the two types of writing. Several class members want to fictionalize parts of their stories due to the sensitive nature of their topics.

Isn't that interesting? Personally, I don't have a problem with the concept of adding fiction to a nonfiction story. But I think the author needs to make it very clear to potential readers what has been done to the story.
The book should not be promoted as nonfiction. Most everyone has heard of the stink created when author James Frey released his book "A Million Little Pieces" as a memoir, when in fact is was later disclosed to have many fictionalized parts. Readers were mad, book reviewers were mad and Oprah Winfrey, who had promoted the book in her book club, was livid.

At first I thought that if you combined nonfiction and fiction you ended up with creative nonfiction. However, according to the creativenonfiction.org website, "The word 'creative' refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible."

Obviously that is not what we are talking about doing here. We are talking about mixing fact and fiction. So what kind of writing is it? I found this related article on the Writer's Relief, Inc. blog to be very insightful. And the reader comments are all valuable as well. Sounds like my author/students have some soul-searching to do! I believe we will all be learning something.

1 comment:

  1. That is interesting! Are you allowed to reveal some of the books that are being written by the students?

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