Beginning Creative Nonfiction Writers

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Photo of author Annie Dillard

Pittsburgh has been home to some of the greatest creative nonfiction voices of the past century, from those born here like Annie Dillard to writers who made their journeys through the University of Pittsburgh as students like Rebecca Skloot and as educators like Jeanne Marie Laskas. The ‘Burgh is also home to the highly respected Creative Nonfiction literary journal. Pitt grad Dinty W. Moore is the editor of Brevity, an amazing literary journal of flash nonfiction. All in all, the impulse to tell true stories runs deep in Pittsburghers.

For anyone looking to start writing personal essays or memoir, here are some definitive texts you might want to check out:

DB30470
Annie Dillard
The Writing Life
Ruminations from a Pulitzer Prize winning author about the struggles and joys of writing. She describes her work space, a pine shed on Cape Cod, as a “plane’s cockpit…crammed…with high-tech equipment.” She discusses other writers: Wallace Stevens, Dante, and Emerson and their penchant for long walks. Bestseller. 1989.

DB10112
William Zinsser
On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction
A writer, critic, and a teacher at Yale University offers basic principles for writing nonfiction. He urges a reverence for words and simplicity and illustrates his methods with passages from such favorite writers of his as Rene Dubos, E.B. White, H.L. Mencken, and James Agee. 1976.

DB83095
Mary Karr
The Art of Memoir
Author of bestselling memoirs such as Lit (DB 70207) gives advice on writing in this very personal genre. Instructs on ways to find your voice and to deal with the reactions of family and friends described in your book. Includes an appendix with 200 recommended memoirs. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2015.