Prof. Ted Cheney, author of "Writing Creative Nonfiction" to teach subject at Fairfield University


"Writing Creative Nonfiction" can be disconcerting to a literalist, Ted Cheney knows, but it's a term near and dear to this professional who has two successful books on writing to his credit. It is a term he helped popularize in the mid-eighties with a book by the same name and it's the name of a course he will be teaching at Fairfield University in September.

A multitude of synonyms have emerged over the years, including "Literary Journalism" and "Literature of Fact," but the purpose remains the same, he says, and that is "to deliver facts in ways that move the reader toward a deeper understanding of a topic."

Creative nonfiction writers "inform their readers by making the reading experience vivid, emotionally compelling, and enjoyable while sticking to the facts," he says. The concept isn't all that new, he explains, using as an example Jack London's 1906 account of the San Francisco earthquake for Collier's Weekly. Ernest Hemingway succeeded at the genre as well, with his 1937 article, "On the Shelling of Madrid," written for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Put succinctly, Prof. Cheney says that Creative Nonfiction "requires the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter." He uses the work of several authors, to illustrate creative nonfiction to students. Susan Orlean who writes for the New Yorker is a contemporary example of someone who brings her writing to life by mastering her subject and then using writing techniques associated with fiction, to make her articles compelling. Her writing has been described as "snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose" by The Washington Post Book World.

Prof. Cheney's class will meet Tuesdays, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 14. For more information, please call University College at (203) 254-4110.

Prof. Cheney is also the author of the popular, "Getting the Words Right," a classic for writers that has been revised and will be published next year.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 3, 2004

Vol. 37, No. 36