Editor Spotlight: Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind is founder and editor of, Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary journal to publish nonfiction, exclusively.   He is editor of Best Creative Nonfiction, an annual anthology and author of Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction, both published by W.W. Norton.  In all, Gutkind has written 15 books, and edited 18 collections and volumes in the past 25 years.  In celebration of his impact on the genre, In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, was published in 2004 by W.W. Norton.  Book List called In Fact “an electrifying anthology . . . an exciting and defining creative nonfiction primer.”  Lee Gutkind is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University.

AWP Wrap Up

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Sorry for the delay in getting this final AWP post out. Here’s the wrap up:

My AWP experience was cut a bit short for reasons not the least bit interesting. Still, I was able to spend some quality time in the book room (see pics above) and attend a few good panels on Friday. Saturday, I’m sad to say, didn’t happen for me, but I look forward to reading other blog posts about it and catching up. Brevity is blogging about the conference as well.

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Playing for Keeps: Intensity and Creativity in the Lyric Essay

Reporting from the 2011 AWP conference in Washington, D.C., I’ll be posting notes and tidbits from panels on writing, editing and publishing; news from the book room; and the thoughts that hit me late in the night.

Tonight’s post comes from the Playing for Keeps: Intensity and Creativity in the Lyric Essay panel. Here’s the description:

The lyric essay gives writers the license to experiment–to play with language in fresh and surprising ways–but if this playfulness lacks intensity the lyric essay can become a game, or worse, an idle exercise. What do writers do to animate the form so that it not only enjoys the freedom to explore but achieves the level of passion and intelligence we expect from all great writing? A panel of writers will consider the question and offer concrete suggestions.

Rebecca McClanahan started us off with her 13 Ways of Looking at Lyric Essay in 15 Minutes. Here they are in bold with my own notes following:

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If I Wasn’t Scared Before… Writing Memoir in Genzlinger’s Age

Neil Genzlinger has dropped the bomb. In a supposed review of four memoirs, he goes off on what’s really eating him: the fact that people are writing memoirs at all:

A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of shutting up.

There was a time when you had to earn the right to draft a memoir, by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual experience or being such a brilliant writer that you could turn relatively ordinary occurrences into a snapshot of a broader historical moment. Anyone who didn’t fit one of those categories was obliged to keep quiet. Unremarkable lives went unremarked upon, the way God intended.

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On Giving Up Buford

Another old CNF experiment.  This one was written in the Spring of 2009 and shortly before we did, in fact, give up Buford.  Of course, that didn’t last long, and Buford is back home with us – calmer, gentler, and snoring like a sailor.

We have a bloodhound, Buford. He’s just shy of two years old and has been perhaps the most destructive force in my life since the flash flood I was caught in five years ago in West Africa. I was there for a summer studying Francophone literature and culture. In those sweltering days, everyone watched the sky with a mixture of foreboding and desire. The rains were late. People were dying. I imagine some of the villages blamed us: pink-cheeked strangers snapping up their souls with our Nikons every chance we got. Continue reading

Notes from a Neophyte

“The best work Hemingway ever did was with that shotgun,” says the only Dean sitting amongst us.  You can literally hear the intake of air as I gasp, choke and laugh at the same time. “You did NOT just say that,” I say as I watch the Dean’s face glimmer with an evil pleasure at having shocked me.  A group of us are sitting at a newish and hip Chinese/Japanese fusion restaurant in frigid Omaha, Nebraska.  After sitting through an eight-hour board meeting for a literary foundation on which four of the five of us sit, the mood is jovial and light.  There are three scholars at the table and a married couple who give an extraordinary amount of time and money to the cause simply because they believe in it.   Continue reading

Thoughts From the Road: A Journey from Mississippi to Nebraska, via Minnesota, in Random, Fragmented Thoughts

“I’ll get something at the airport, or on the way.  I should take a diet coke just in case.  Yeah, I’ll just eat there.  Plenty of time.”

“What’s that taped to his window?  Oh my god.  Seriously?”

“What a creep!  I don’t think so, dude.”

“Is he following me?  Let’s see how you do at 80 mph.”

“Okay, that’s better.”

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TV Dinners Again?

I don’t remember when or where I was when I picked up a very used, very worn edition of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.  But I do remember opening the book to find a news clipping inside.

Much more than the book, this clipping, yellowed and wrinkled with more than 35 years of age, has had an impact on me that, until today, I’ve been unable to put into words.  The clipping comes from the May 5, 1975 edition of Newsweek from an article titled, “Sex and the Woman Writer” in which Erica Jong “typifies a new breed of women novelists who are describing their own experience in an unprecedented outpouring of books.”

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