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Shadow Boxing : Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction / Edition 1

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Overview

Unique in approach and content, this book presents specific definitions of the subgenres of creative nonfiction—memoir, the personal essay, literary journalism, nature writing, biography and history, and the nonfiction novel. Providing model readings to illustrate these definitions, this First Edition also offers practical writing exercises and strategies for readers to apply what they are learning in each subgenre. For professionals with a career or interest in writing, journalism, education, publishing, and/or media.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130994424
  • Publisher: Longman
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristen Iversen is the author of Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award in Biography, and the forthcoming Full Body Burden, based on her experience of growing up near Rocky Flats, a nuclear weaponry facility in Colorado. She has taught in the creative writing programs at Naropa University and San Jose State University, and currently teaches at the University of Memphis.

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Read an Excerpt

Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is a book unlike others on the subject and presents a new approach to a relatively new genre. What is creative nonfiction, and why is everyone talking about it? This book will begin to answer that question and pose some interesting new questions about it.

A balance of model readings and practical writing exercises, Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is primarily designed for students in creative writing workshops at the undergraduate and graduate level, and may also be useful in composition courses. However, writers outside of academia who are interested in creative nonfiction—and there are many of them—will find this book helpful as well.

Just as the term creative nonfiction is problematic (how many genres are defined by what they are not?), it is almost impossible to draw distinct, irrefutable lines between its various subgenres: memoir, the personal essay, literary journalism, biography/history, and the nonfiction novel. One form merges into the next, and even the line between fiction and nonfiction can be (as any good writer knows) oblique, blurred, or downright invisible. How closely must the creative nonfiction writer adhere to fact? What role does imagination play? One of the goals of this book is to examine the ethics of creative nonfiction and, inevitably, the ethical questions that any writer of prose or poetry faces whenever they put words on a page.

The term shadow boxing has a long history. In contemporary sport boxing, it is most often used to describe sparring with an imaginary partner for exercise or training purposes. The writer of creative nonfiction spars with all sorts of shadowy opponents: readers, critics, writers, and peers, who are quick to point out what should and shouldn't be done when one chooses to write in a genre that engages both fact and imagination. Each particular genre also poses its own particular problems: for example, a memoirist may feel the shadow of a parent, living or dead, as a heavy influence on the work. The literary journalist might struggle with the professional standards of conventional journalism and the literary technique that allows the development of character-driven narrative. Ultimately, though, writing—like shadow boxing—is a solitary battle. In Chinese shadow boxing, the boxer struggles with his or her own shadow to attain the highest form and expression of the self. The shadow becomes representative of the ego itself. Thus each of us as writers must struggle with our own shadows, internal and external, to determine our own highest form of meaning and creative expression.

My interest in creative nonfiction arises from years of working as a journalist and editor before deciding to return to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in English/ Creative Writing. I began to teach fiction and creative nonfiction, and the readings and exercises in this book grew from those years of workshop experiences. This book follows the approach I take in my workshops: a focused discussion of genre and style; an analysis of model readings that represent various approaches to the genre; writing exercises intended to spark and generate new creative work; and, finally, a thorough approach to revision and re-visioning.

I am deeply indebted to the people who helped bring this book to fruition: Julie Lewis, Dan Choi, Shannon Rauwerda, my good friend and colleague Chris Fink, and all the students over the past few years who have graced me with their presence.

I also want to thank the reviewers who helped me to improve this book: David Lenoir, Western Kentucky University; Andrew Furmar, Florida Atlantic University; Howard Kerner, Polk Community College; Glenda Conway, University of Montevallo; Stuart C. Brown, New Mexico State University; and Alex Albright, East Carolina University.

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Table of Contents

(NOTE: Each chapter begins with an Introduction, and Model Readings with Discussion Questions and concludes with Writing Exercises, “The Writing Workshop,” and Revision Tips and Strategies.)

I. WHEN IS NONFICTION NOT CREATIVE?

II. TYPES OF CREATIVE NONFICTION

1. Memoir.

Excerpt from This Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff. Excerpt from The Liars' Club, Mary Karr. Excerpt from Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, Judith Ortiz Cofer. Mother From Heaven, Jeanette Winterson. Student Readings. Lost at a Love-In, Eran Williams. Dancing Girls, Sharon Jackson. Chester, Cathy Patterson.

2. Personal Essay.

Thank You in Arabic, Naomi Shihab Nye. Texas Women: True Grit and All the Rest, Molly Ivins. The Stone Horse,Barry Lopez. Student Readings. Fifteen Minutes, Julie Lewis. Coming to Shelter, Joan Barnett. Waiting Is the Hardest Part, Kate Evans.

3. Literary Journalism.

Excerpt from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hunter S. Thompson. Excerpt from The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester. On AIDS, Susan Sontag. Excerpt from Coming Into the Country, John McPhee. Student Readings. All That Stands Between Me and Heaven Is My Husband's Fork, Anne Jennings. Are You My Mother? Shannon Rauwerda. Escape from Italy, or No Fear and Loathing in the Rome of the North, Ian Caton.

4. Nature Writing.

Excerpt from Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Terry Tempest Williams. Excerpt from Accident: A Days News, Christa Wolf. Excerpt from The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich. At Cloudy Pass: The Need of Being Versed in Human Things, Louise Owens. Student Readings. The Tolerable Naturalist, Melissa Edmunson. Naupaka In Bloom, Daphne K. Jenkins.

5. Biography and History.

The Devil and Ambrose Bierce, Jacob Silverstein. Excerpt from Son of the Morning Star, Evan Connell. In Search of History, Barbara Tuchman. Excerpt from Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, by Kristen Iversen. Student Readings. Rebecca Tucked Away, Robert James.Dear John Barry, Ellen Young.

6. The Nonfiction Novel.

Excerpt from In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. Excerpt from Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks. Excerpt from Becoming Madame Mao, Anchee Min. Excerpt from The Hours, Michael Cunningham. Student Readings. Rossiya East, Robert James. Talk Story, Shannon Rauwerda.

III. THE WRITING LIFE.

The Writing Life, Annie Dillard. So Long Ago, So Near, Richard Baush. On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion. Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton.

Appendix.

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Preface

Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is a book unlike others on the subject and presents a new approach to a relatively new genre. What is creative nonfiction, and why is everyone talking about it? This book will begin to answer that question and pose some interesting new questions about it.

A balance of model readings and practical writing exercises, Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is primarily designed for students in creative writing workshops at the undergraduate and graduate level, and may also be useful in composition courses. However, writers outside of academia who are interested in creative nonfiction—and there are many of them—will find this book helpful as well.

Just as the term creative nonfiction is problematic (how many genres are defined by what they are not?), it is almost impossible to draw distinct, irrefutable lines between its various subgenres: memoir, the personal essay, literary journalism, biography/history, and the nonfiction novel. One form merges into the next, and even the line between fiction and nonfiction can be (as any good writer knows) oblique, blurred, or downright invisible. How closely must the creative nonfiction writer adhere to fact? What role does imagination play? One of the goals of this book is to examine the ethics of creative nonfiction and, inevitably, the ethical questions that any writer of prose or poetry faces whenever they put words on a page.

The term shadow boxing has a long history. In contemporary sport boxing, it is most often used to describe sparring with an imaginary partner for exercise or training purposes. The writer of creative nonfiction spars with all sorts of shadowy opponents: readers, critics, writers, and peers, who are quick to point out what should and shouldn't be done when one chooses to write in a genre that engages both fact and imagination. Each particular genre also poses its own particular problems: for example, a memoirist may feel the shadow of a parent, living or dead, as a heavy influence on the work. The literary journalist might struggle with the professional standards of conventional journalism and the literary technique that allows the development of character-driven narrative. Ultimately, though, writing—like shadow boxing—is a solitary battle. In Chinese shadow boxing, the boxer struggles with his or her own shadow to attain the highest form and expression of the self. The shadow becomes representative of the ego itself. Thus each of us as writers must struggle with our own shadows, internal and external, to determine our own highest form of meaning and creative expression.

My interest in creative nonfiction arises from years of working as a journalist and editor before deciding to return to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in English/ Creative Writing. I began to teach fiction and creative nonfiction, and the readings and exercises in this book grew from those years of workshop experiences. This book follows the approach I take in my workshops: a focused discussion of genre and style; an analysis of model readings that represent various approaches to the genre; writing exercises intended to spark and generate new creative work; and, finally, a thorough approach to revision and re-visioning.

I am deeply indebted to the people who helped bring this book to fruition: Julie Lewis, Dan Choi, Shannon Rauwerda, my good friend and colleague Chris Fink, and all the students over the past few years who have graced me with their presence.

I also want to thank the reviewers who helped me to improve this book: David Lenoir, Western Kentucky University; Andrew Furmar, Florida Atlantic University; Howard Kerner, Polk Community College; Glenda Conway, University of Montevallo; Stuart C. Brown, New Mexico State University; and Alex Albright, East Carolina University.

Read More Show Less

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