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Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction Paperback – February 16, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0393330984 ISBN-10: 0393330982 Edition: Reprint

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Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction + You Can't Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction--from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between + In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (February 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330984
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

You would think a guide through the ethical thicket that awaits creative nonfiction writers would have clearer answers. But writer and editor Gutkind seems positively Swiss in his neutrality on the simmering issues that flared into open warfare during the James Frey debacle. “Listen, I can’t answer all these questions with rules and regulations,” he tells a college audience in an anecdote from the introduction. “I am not the creative nonfiction police!” Rather than indulging in what he calls “sanctimonious pronouncements about Truth in Art,” Gutkind and his essayists offer a sort of literary realpolitik, providing thoughtful but studiously noncommittal glosses on “checkbook journalism” (paying subjects for information), compression (combining multiple events and/or quotes for the sake of narrative flow), and using family members as characters (tempting but potentially fatal to household harmony). It’s fine as far as it goes, but you sympathize with the woman who stood up after Gutkind’s college declaration and said, “Someone has to be. And you are under arrest.” --Kevin Nance --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Lee Gutkind is the founder and editor of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction and a pioneer in the field of narrative nonfiction. Gutkind is also the editor of In Fact and Becoming a Doctor, the author of Almost Human, and has written books about baseball, health care, travel, and technology. A Distinguished Writer in Residence at Arizona State University, he lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Tempe, Arizona.

More About the Author

Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as "the Godfather behind creative nonfiction," is the author and editor of more than 25 books and founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish narrative nonfiction exclusively. He is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University and a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Gutkind has lectured to audiences around the world--from China to the Czech Republic, from Australia to Africa to Egypt. He has appeared on many national radio and televisions shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central), Good Morning America, National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered, as well as BBC World.

Gutkind is the recipient of grants and awards from many different organizations, from the National Endowment for the Arts to the National Science Foundation.

A prolific author, his most recent books include An Immense New Power to Heal: The Promise of Personalized Medicine and an anthology, At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die.

His new book, You Can't Make This Stuff Up, is described by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin, as the "essential and definitive guide to creative nonfiction . . . engaging, useful, indispensable and inspiring."

Customer Reviews

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An easy read.
Maria D. Zamparelli
An excellent resource for anyone interested in reading, writing or teaching creative non-fiction.
BT Invictus
Good work, Lee Gutkind!
Ariel I. (Beth)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Who says that non-fiction has to be just the facts and nothing else? "Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction" is a guide for writers who are set to write nonfiction but want to do it with some flare, by taking the concepts of fiction - scene, dialogue, metaphor, suspense, and applies them to reality, as a way of telling the truth in the way it happened. Explaining the genre as a whole, sifting through facts to find the best story, points of view, libel fears, immersion, and so many more concepts are covered, making "Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction" highly recommended for anyone who wants to dive into this field.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Modarelli on March 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had read some articles by Gutkind in his journal Creative Nonfiction and was excited to see a book that included some of the most valuable selections from previous issues of the journal. As a writer new to this field, I found the chapters extremely helpful and have already been able to apply some of the concepts (mostly concerning research) to my own writing. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is just getting his or her feet wet with this genre, and I think it would also be beneficial as a refresher for those who have been working with this type of writing for some time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nancy A. Jackson on April 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a book I'm keeping for reference. It's definitely a must for those interested in pursuing creative nonfiction as a writing genre. You'll find interesting material on plagiarism, interviewing technique, and POV. The piece on David Sedaris and the family repercussions of his memoirist writings was fascinating -- and a good lesson for everyone who intends to venture into family-and-friends memoirs. As I said, I'll keep this as a reference, but it's also a very interesting read on its own.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Delgardo on March 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Okay, so I'm not a writer. I don't even play one on TV. I'd LIKE to be a writer, but beyond a few stories, I'd like to tell, I possess no formalized tools (read: haven't taken any creative writing classes AND probably didn't pay enough attention in English 101 - much to my regret) to get those stories out.

That's why I liked "Keep it Real." Mr. Gutkind and his team of contributors have assembled several constructive articles regarding necessities for "Creative Nonfiction." Much of what they share moves beyond the Creative Nonfiction genre and can inform the work of the fiction writer.

While the order of the brief articles seemed random (they're alphabetical, dummy!) I frequently found myself underlining passages to which I would want to refer as I worked through future projects. Within a couple of days, I was back in the book, rereading an underscored passage or two.

As I rewrite something that was "perfect" before, as I mold a journal entry into a memoir piece, heck, even as I take notes for a possible idea, many of the tenets of "Keep it Real" guide my efforts and help make my efforts more succinct and efficient. I have license now to be more critical of my work:

"Take a highlighter and yellow in the scenes. If half your essay, more or less, is not glaring and blaring back at you in yellow (I use green), that's a red flag, a warning that your essay may not be infused with enough narrative to compel a reader onward." (page 141) That one piece of advice is more than worth the price of admission for me.

Perhaps this is not the volume for a student in an MFA program or for someone who is studying writing in a formal program. But for someone with a story to tell who is looking for tips and coaching about how to tell it, this book deserves an easily accessible place on the shelf. You'll be referring to it often.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Lantz on March 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The topics covered in this book are definitely important for anyone who wants to start writing creative nonfiction, but I found the treatment of each topic to be too brief and general. It's not a long book, or an expensive one, and I suppose you get what you pay for, but I wished the chapters where much more in-depth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Moore on January 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall, this is a very useful text, although there are some small problems with it.

First the good. The chapters are specific and don't waste the reader's time with an excessive amount of examples. It is clearly written, makes many good points, and covers the basics of writing creative nonfiction.

The drawbacks is in organization. The chapters are not numbered, although there is a table of contents that uses the chapter titles. Also, while the book is edited by Gutkind and there is a list of contributors, there names are not in the chapter headings. Finally, the organization could use work. Some of the chapters seem randomly placed. Arranging the chapters by subject would help.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By StarJesus on June 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I strongly recommend "Keep It Real", an anthology of essays by various experts on how to write Creative Nonfiction. The book details every conceivable writing tool needed for the writer of this nouveau literary genre. Lee Gutkind, the editor, is the purported grandfather of Creative Nonfiction.

Originally, I adjudged Creative Nonfiction as an embellishment--inserting fictional facts with flamboyant color into an otherwise true story to round out its rough edges and instill it with vivid life. I viewed this strange new genre as a stretching of truth into virtual fiction.

"Keep It Real" set me straight. Its integrity as nonfiction remains intact. This new genre awakens the dry experience of Journalism, as depicted by publications like the "The New York Times", by inserting emotion and color into lifeless facts. It maintains accurate prose about real people and events, while painting dry facts with drama and imagination. The nonfiction writer, as a factual reporter, enters inside the mind of the protagonist, not through fictional embellishment or psychic guesswork, but through true depictions of that person's actions, expressions, and words. Likewise, the writer can be an interactive character in the story with the license to express his own personal thoughts, feelings, and perceptions through a depiction of his own behavior and reactions. The story reads like lively fiction, but tells the truth.

My memoir-in-progress, which I had initially labeled Nonfiction Narrative, is really Creative Nonfiction.
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