Even before Lee Gutkind was spotlighted in Vanity Fair magazine in 1997 as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction” he was its most active advocate-practitioner. In 1991, Gutkind founded Creative Nonfiction, the first and the largest literary journal to publish narrative/creative nonfiction exclusively. He launched the MFA program in creative nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh and the low residency program at Goucher College—both firsts in the world.
A Movement: Not a Moment
When Gutkind began pioneering creative nonfiction, few if any universities offered courses or degrees in creative nonfiction, but he saw the genre as a way of connecting students with the real world through what he called, “the literature of reality.” Today, poets, novelists, journalists and playwrights alike, recognize the art and challenge of creative nonfiction, capturing their lives and the lives of others through memoir, biography, literary journalism and other forms of documentary drama. Creative nonfiction has been and continues to be the fastest growing genre in the publishing industry and the Academy.
Pushing the Boundaries
Gutkind has now embarked on another creative nonfiction boundary-breaking journey. He’s introducing the literature of reality to a new set of practitioners—scientists, engineers, policy scholars, mathematicians, philosophers—outstanding men and women—innovators and scholars together, working with Gutkind and his teams of writers, embarked on missions of change.
“The world has been transformed,” he says. “There’s so much for the general public—the people upon whom innovation impacts—to understand, appreciate and debate. Very often the people responsible for this new world are unable to share their knowledge. I want to teach them how to write true stories that inform, entertain and compel readers to learn.”
Think Write Publish
His efforts, anchored at Arizona State University, where he is a professor and Distinguished Writer in Residence, have most recently culminated in the highly praised and innovative Think Write Publish (TWP) program, supported by the National Science Foundation. Through TWP, science policy scholars and creative nonfiction writers utilized Gutkind’s “Writing True Stories That Matter” techniques. Working as collaborative teams, they wrote true stories that featured the scholar’s research and informed and inspired a general readership through story.
Gutkind has continued to push the boundaries with his “Writing Away the Stigma” program, launched with the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, has helped patients and professionals share their struggle with mental illness with policy makers and the public throughout the country. The John Templeton Foundation has recently funded the newest iteration of TWP: True Stories Well Told: Using Narrative to Search For Harmonies Between Science and Religion”