Keep It Real

Keep It Real

Big things do come in small packages. This weekend I completed reading Keep It Real: Everything You need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction, it is a compilation of chapters that a wide variety of writers contributed and Lee Gutkind being the editor of the book.

For being only 161 pages, the book is indeed packed full of straight forward information and illuminates the world of creative nonfiction. I recommend this book to anyone venturing into this somewhat new genre of writing.

The book opens up with an introductory, of course, from Lee Gutkind himself and it is titled, Private and Public: The Range and Scope of Creative Nonfiction, and he pretty much describes the world of creative nonfiction. He sums it up for me with this sentence,

“Creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and often more accessible.”

For the longest time I struggled with what this new genre called creative nonfiction was all about but the more I stuck around and read about it the more it became clearer and clearer to me.

Gutkind also goes on to give examples of what creative nonfiction looks like with works such as George Owell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff just to name a few. He also explains that creative nonfiction is a combination of telling the public and private story.

New Journalism is what people were calling it back in the day with the likes of Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, and Truman Capote writing about real events but also throwing their own voice into the mix as the storyteller or narrator.

Keep It Real
Keep It Real

Lee Gutkind describes the Five Rs of what makes compelling creative nonfiction:

  • R1: Real-life aspect of writing experience
  • R2: Reflection
  • R3: Research or reportage
  • R4: Reading
  • R5: ‘riting

I have highlighted a big portion of this introduction by Lee Gutkind because it is like a guide I can return to over and over again; a reference of sorts.

This is one of my favorite sentences in the opening of the book,

“The uninspired writer will tell the reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality in action.”

After Lee Gutkind wraps up about what creative nonfiction is or isn’t, we then join the party and get to be up close and personal with the rest of the contributing writers. It’s like being at a cocktail party and getting to listen in on a conversation for a few minutes. There are over forty smaller chapters that range in subjects from Composite Characters to Gunkholing: Find a Story to Immersion to the descriptions of different types of essays to The Roots of Memoir to The Vagaries of Memory and many more topics.

Again, if anyone is venturing into the realm of creative nonfiction then I strongly suggest this book. It is one that I will refer to again and again as I write my own creative nonfiction.

Thanks for reading,

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A middle-aged, petite, CrossFit athlete. #MoxieFit50


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