Let's Help Each Other Out!

This is a place for creative writing teachers to share idea to be come better teachers.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lying and Creative Nonfiction

Ok, maybe I put some stretchers in there when I write creative nonfiction. Maybe I conflate two days into one day. Just yesterday, I realized I had the wrong location down for an event, and I was able to use google maps to make the correction.

That's one problem with teaching creative nonfiction.  You tell the students to be truthful to how they remember things, but they know that to make it a good story and get an 'A,' they may need to fictionalize a lot.

Some students--not all--view a teacher like a traffic cop who has pulled one over and is writing a ticket. Any lie to get out of the ticket is OK.  Any trick in the book to get an 'A' is OK.

I seem to recall viewing grades as existentially absurd when I was an undergraduate. Oddly, though, I was more interested in the knowledge than the grade, and often was so lazy I wouldn't find out what my previous semester's grades were until half way through the next semester.

But back to teaching creative nonfiction. They don't know what it is.  You have to provide plenty of reading examples and talk about the genre at length to begin to give them a feel for the genre in the short form. CNF is rather an umbrella term for a lot of things. It's a challenge to fit the form in when teaching a multi-genre course.

Plus, they don't have the mask of fiction to hide behind, and that makes workshoppng CN a greater challenge.  And you may have a student or two who wants to confess a deep, dark secret, and is interested in collective sympathy rather than in making the CNF piece the best possible it can be.  That's understandable, but then the teacher finds her/himself moving into the providing therapy zone, something we've not been trained to do.

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