Researching Creative Nonfiction: A passage from an upcoming talk

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'll be speaking at Rosemont College this coming Thursday evening on a topic I've often thought about but never spoken on—the art of researching creative nonfiction. I'll be talking about three books—Flow, Still Love in Strange Places, and Ghosts in the Garden. I'll be inspired, in part, by this photograph, found for me by my friend Adam Levine in the city archives. This from the talk, just written:

Whether I’m writing memoir or novels, fables or poems, young adult novels, adult novels, or fantasies, I am, at one point, reaching far beyond myself, to bring the greater world in. I am following the always persistent, hardly consistent, rarely well-tiled path of my insatiable curiosity. True, research is often either a surfeit of overwhelm, or a tease. Still, and nevertheless, I don’t believe in bringing presumption to the page—in writing simply and only what I already know. I don’t believe in closing doors before I’ve opened windows. I want to be alive when I am writing—engaged, in suspense, full of the unprotected what ifs? I want to convey my own surprise, dismay, or basic indignity right there, on the page. Formulae don’t cut it for me; formulae have been done. Research scrambles the math.


Unknown said...

I wish I could be there! How lucky that audience will be. :)

Beth F said...

Having come into this business through a door that led out of scientific research and non-creative writing -- I am interested in the scrambled math. And I need to think a bit.

Sherry said... drive me crazy with intriguing well-stated teaser. I hope you share more of your talk with us.

Vivian Mahoney said...

I love this passage and am jealous of your audience. You're so right. "Research scrambles the math." Isn't it wonderful?

Lilian Nattel said...

Research is fun, frustrating as well, but I so enjoy the learning process. The tough part for me is meshing the research into the story so that it's an integral part and doesn't stick out as "now the author is telling us about x". It takes me a lot of drafts!

septembermom said...

You captivate with your voice here. You're so gifted Beth.

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