This weekend at the Creative Nonfiction Writer’s Conference, I led a master class on Research Techniques in the genre. For those of you who attended (or anyone else interested in learning more about creative research), here are links to the essays and books I referenced.
- Jeanne Marie Laskas’ “Underworld,” and her entire collection, Hidden America
- Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway
- “The Last Abortion Doctor,” by John H. Richardson
- My piece in The Atlantic, “Shutting Down the Zen Butcher”
Investigating the Self
- “The Clan of One-Breasted Women” by Terry Tempest Williams, excerpted from her excellent book, Refuge
- “The Art of Being Born” by Marcia Aldrich
- Jessica Handler’s missive to “Write What You Don’t Know” from Creative Nonfiction
- “Physical Evidence,” by Kelly Grey Carlisle
- Eula Biss’ “Time and Distance Overcome,” from her book Notes from No Man’s Land, whose “Notes” section includes some excellent discussions of using research to drive an essay.
- Randon Billings Noble’s “The Heart as a Torn Muscle,” and her essay on the origins of that piece in Brevity. Randon has also written about other research-driven hermit crab essays here.
I didn’t have time to mention these other excellent discussions of research: Jill Talbot’s “The Essayist in Search of the Essay” in Creative Nonfiction, and Philip Gerard’s “The Fact Behind the Facts,” on the ethics of fact-checking oneself.
Finally, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of Keri Smith’s work, and think her books and apps are incredibly valuable for writers and visual artists alike!
Updated to add a few others that came up in conversation in one or both classes.
We discussed another great work of immersion, Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief. I mentioned Jennifer Percy‘s work for a number of reasons, and the link here includes her excellent book, Demon Camp, as well as some of her newest longform pieces about women in Afghanistan, and she appears on the Longform podcast discussing her research process.
From there, we continued to chat about privacy and ethics, especially in memoir, and Amy Butcher’s Visiting Hours, and Mary Karr’s work (especially The Liar’s Club) came up as examples of writers who did an excellent job representing and re-imagining memory. When we talked about disclaimers, I mentioned Dave Egger’s very thorough addendum to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and there are many others.
Did I forgot anything? What else would you add?