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Tell It Slant
Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction

Miller, Brenda; Paola, Suzanne
Publisher:  McGraw-Hill, New York, USA
Year Published:  2005  
Pages:  195pp   ISBN:  0-07-144494-7
Library of Congress Number:  PE1408.M548   Dewey:  808`.042

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Both Miller and Paola are award-winning essay writers and book authors, teaching at Western Washington University. The book is a guide to writing memoirs and essays, and the authors encourage the reader-writer to find the hook, the theme, the "slant" mentioned in the title.

They explain the processes (writing basics, essay writing, memoirs) for creative non-fiction. Topics covered include family subjects, historical writing, lyric essay, the arts, personal essays, and spiritual autobiography. Elegance is the keyword here, but tread with caution.

The authors delve into fact vs. fiction, thrusting and clarifying: memory and imagination, emotional truth and factual truth, whole truth and partial truth. Isn't this what journalists are supposed to avoid? False memories and fabrication are anathema to the daily reporters. And it is, of course, ironic that for a book dealing with creative non-fiction, the copyright notice here is 2005, not 2004 when the book was actually published. Many textbooks are appearing now with advanced dating, in hopes of keeping the books fresher with a current date. Each chapter concludes with a series of exercises and prompts for writing on your own; these are quite good. There is a chapter on writing groups and how to form one, plenty of writing examples, and an index.

Audience or interest level: budding writers, writing groups. But not journalists (we don't want to give them any ideas)#

Some interesting facts: "We believe that every writer must negotiate the boundary between fact and fiction for him- or herself. What constitutes fabrication for one writer will seem like natural technique to another". Really???

What I don't like about this resource: lots of stuff and advice for writers, but nothing about readers or audiences. Who actually reads the personal memoirs, the essays, the creative non-fiction? These books do not sell very well.

What I do like about this resource: a really useful, annotated bibliography.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 90.

[Review by Dean Tudor]


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