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What is Creative Nonfiction?

January 16, 2017

Creative Nonfiction is …

… True stories well told. – Lee Gutkind (Founder of Creative Nonfiction Magazine)


… also known as literary nonfiction or narrative nonfiction it is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. – Wiki Definition


… a branch of writing that employs the literary techniques usually associated with fiction or poetry to report on actual persons, places, or events. – about.com


I picked up this book, with no real understanding or knowledge of what Creative nonfiction actually was, but I was curious to see what constituted a well told story.

This book is a collection of Creative nonfiction stories taken from the monthly magazine ‘Creative Nonfiction’ which are compiled together to create a book at the end of each year.


As previously stated, I had no conscious knowledge of Creative nonfiction, however during the course of reading this book, it soon became clear that this genre is all around us. It is the idea of taking a life experience and writing about it using the varying skills and techniques of fiction, journalism and non fiction, etc.

The book is filled with different experiences from lots of different people from all around the world, all the stories were brilliantly creative in their own right, however there were a few that stood out to me in particular.


End Of The Line – Jim Kennedy

Jim uses The Orange Line (his everyday subway line) as a metaphor for some of the major experiences and memories in his life, with the most poignant being the drowning of his 10 year old son. Jim’s narrative is personal and detailed and at times harrowing as he describes his sons final moments before he was taken from him by a strong ocean current.

Teaching Death – Todd May

Todd is a Humanities Professor and previously decided to teach a course about Death, this story is a combination of his account of the course as well as his philosophical musings around the topic. Why is death such an unspoken topic? It seems that as the length of someones life has increased the need/desire to talk about the subject has decreased. Is this because we now see death as a failure? A failure of modern medicine? A failure of Religion? Or even a failure of ourselves? The idea that if we were immortal (allowing us to have time for everything), would this take away our determination and urgency for living, does it remove the purpose to our lives.

Beds – Toi Derricotte

This is the story of Toi’s childhood and life growing up told using the different beds she slept in (as a child) as a reference point for the various moments in her life. It is also a detailed story about her difficult relationship with her father, the man who would beat her into submission but also care for her as though she was his most precious possession. This was a heartfelt and turbulent story told not in anger, but from a place of love and compassion.

Final thoughts

The stories in this book vary greatly with no over-riding theme, other then the fact they are real life accounts told creatively and passionately. They give you a sense of who the author is as a writer and as a person. I would recommend this book for any aspiring writer, anyone in need of finding their own voice or anyone who is fascinated by the art of telling stories.

The book ends with a long story written by Lee Gutkind about how he established Creative Nonfiction (the magazine) and what becomes apparent, is that even after producing a dedicated magazine/book/website, Lee still finds it almost impossible to come up with a definitive definition of this genre.

Creative Nonfiction is … My stories told my way. – Tash Thomas


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  • Reply Mandy Hatton January 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

    I love reading !! But a book a week ?!
    Impressed !

  • Reply D T January 16, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Very thought-provoking Tash!

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