authors

Creative Writing + Nonfiction

By: Madison Larimore

My mom gets nervous at the thought of my concentration, creative nonfiction.

“Are you going to write about me? What are you going to say? Does the creative part mean you get to lie?” she asked, when I explained my degree to her for the fifth time.

I don’t blame my mom for having so many questions. I even find it difficult to answer those questions as a student who has studied the craft for three years. But creative nonfiction is not unfamiliar to us, no matter how hard to define the term may be.

The last time my mom asked me about it, I mentioned that the way we communicate on social media is a form of creative nonfiction: we use creative tools to best represent the nonfiction elements of our own personal lives.

In the craft of creative nonfiction, the creative tools are generally literary devices commonly found in fiction and poetry to tell the story well by crafting a scene, establishing character, etc. Of course, in creative nonfiction, the subject matter is true.

Creative nonfiction is not an oxymoron.

In other words, nonfiction, or the truth, does not have to be told boring and lifeless, and good writing does not have to be made up or imagined to be creative. Creative nonfiction can have literary merit, and those pieces that do represent the truth in a way that allows the reader to experience it in the most realistic, purposeful way possible. Creative nonfiction gives you an opportunity to directly expand your perspective through experiencing a piece of someone else’s.

In creative nonfiction, instead of the imagination, our main tool is memory. That’s where we get the term memoir, which is one of the largest sub-genres within the autobiography category. Another popular sub-genre is the personal essay, which commonly explores a question in the writer’s life. Sometimes you will hear both creative nonfiction and fiction referred to as prose, as opposed to poetry.

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, students are lucky to have two departments with programs in creative nonfiction: the Writer’s Workshop in CFAM and the English department in ASH. Both of these departments are great resources to learn more. And of course, 13th Floor magazine, our campus literary magazine, publishes creative nonfiction. If you have any questions, please email me, the Lead Creative Nonfiction editor, at mlarimore@unomaha.edu.

Fall 2017 Issue is Now Available!

Fall Cover

The Fall 2017 issue is here!

Check out some amazing pieces of writing and art for free via Amazon.com. This free edition is only available as an ebook. Make sure to download the Fall 2017 issue before September 1st. Click here to get your free copy.

Print versions of the Fall 2017 issue will also be available on blurb.com for only $11! Get yours here. Hurry, this sale will only last until September 1st!

We will also be selling print issues (while supplies last) at every Writer’s Workshop Reading Series event, starting Tuesday, September 20, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., at the University of Nebraska Omaha Art Gallery or Milo Bail Student Center, depending on where the reading takes place. You can see a list of the reading series dates and locations here.

Save the Date for the 700 Words Prose Slam!

Have you ever wanted to read your work before an audience? UNO’s Writer’s Workshop and English Department will be holding a prose slam at Apollon Art Space on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Come out at 7:00 to read your work. Or, if you don’t have anything to read, stop by and support the readers for free!

It’s Kind Of A PSA

A speaker last week jokingly said to my class, “Always tell writers you admire that you admire them, they like that”.

And then I remembered something— a longstanding regret.

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cover of Vizzini’s novel, published 2006

For those who are unaware of who Ned Vizzini is, he wrote many quirky takes on sci-fi, such as the Other Normals and Be More Chill, but is most well known for his novel, It’s Kind of A Funny Story, originally published in 2006, and made in to a movie in 2010 starring Ema Roberts.

its-kind-of-a-funny-story.17034

cover of the 2010 film adaptation

The book was about a teen who commits himself to a hospital after phoning a suicide hotline and his interactions and reflections with and about the people he encounters. Vizzini was very open about the fact that the book was inspired by his own hospitalization for depression in 2004.

I read this book when I was 16, when I was battling my own demons along with the other side effects of my high school career. It felt like fate.  I became engrossed in the novel, sitting on that last page and sobbing like I was saying goodbye to a person who really understood me. Afterwards, I took to the library and was thrilled to find Vizzini’s autobiography entitled Teen Angst, Naaah.

I had expected to find a dreary, self-deprecating man, instead I found a charming, awkward individual. I am fully aware, as a writer, that we don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes to stories about ourselves. But since he was so open about his mental health, it was surprising to me to find such a wonderful voice within. I found myself at times commenting on how normal he seemed.

In the back of his autobiography there was a link to his website where he encouraged people to email him about writing, books, and their lives. I wrote four drafts of an email but never sent it. I convinced myself that even if he did read it I would get the generic, “just keep writing”, or “it’s so nice to hear you say that”.  Even though I had spent so much time with this voice, I didn’t think I could connect the way I’d wanted to.

And honestly, I still don’t know if I would’ve. Authors are busy after all. But when I found out that his demons had gotten the better of him in 2013, there was nothing I had wished for more. Even if he didn’t respond— even if he didn’t read it, I wish I had emailed him to tell him how impressed I was with his storytelling, his character development— how much I wanted to mirror that skill in my own writing. I wish I had told him how much he had meant to me as a person when I read about his teenage years, his awkward but entertaining thought processes; how well spoken, and witty he was in interviews.

I admired him for all he was, and still cherish what he’s left behind on the page.

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you all to tell those whom you admire— that you do. I bet they’ll like that.

You can see his website here

To read more about National Mental Awareness month, see here