Introduction Scott Russell Sanders There is a kind of writing that begins from the impulse to make things up, to invent a situation and see how it unfolds, to create characters and see what they do. Since around , such writing has been called fiction, from a Latin root meaning "to feign" or "to counterfeit. Writing may also begin from a contrary impulse, not to make things up, but to record and examine something the writer has actually witnessed, lived through, learned about, or pondered. Such writing can range from history and philosophy to manifestos and memoirs, from the formality of footnoted tomes to the pizzazz of slangy blogs. What all such writing has in common is faithfulness to some reality that the writer did not invent -- to a shared history, to real people, to actual events, to places one can visit, to facts one can check.
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Thus began the long, arduous process of publishing the first edition of the Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction. But that culture has changed. Readers crave compelling stories about real events that tell them why they should care. It is an interesting, important time to be reading nonfiction. Whatever the reasons for its rising popularity, according to the Associated Writing Programs Official Guide to Writing Programs, creative nonfiction is now widely taught alongside courses in poetry, fiction, drama, and screenwriting in the more than three hundred writing programs across the United States and Canada, and the number of creative writing programs advertising for new nonfiction teaching positions has risen significantly over the last decade.
Despite the rise in books on the writing of nonfiction, however, there are still surprisingly few affordable nonfiction anthologies for professors and students to use in their nonfiction classes and workshops.
Assembling a low-cost, democratically selected anthology like the Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction can do much, we hope, to help make the costs of an education more within reach for students and still bring to a wider audience the most compelling contemporary nonfiction written over the last thirty years.
The Online Surveys For the month of July , we conducted two separate online surveys of freelance and teaching writers for the second edition of The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction and the new Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction. In other words, what essays do you most often photocopy and bring to discuss in your creative nonfiction classes? What specific technical or thematic concerns do they best illustrate?
Then after several months and no small difficulty in locating the nominated essays, I emailed the same writers who had nominated them to find out where they had found them. And the rest of us? What can we do? Read everything we can and try to decide the truth in it. Impatient with lies, especially the lies they tell themselves, they give intelligent, critical readers greater freedom by asking questions about the emotional and psychological truths that matter.
We tried as much as possible to respect the privacy of writers, often solitary and protective of their time, and gave all the writers we surveyed the option of having their names removed from our email list, and we did so, if they wished, immediately.
Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present
Michael A. Martone
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