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Defining Creative Nonfiction, Or Not

alicia elliottIn her editorial to The Fiddlehead‘s Autumn 2018 issue, “Whatever We Need It To Be,” Creative Nonfiction Editor Alicia Elliott opens the publication’s first “all creative nonfiction issue” with a story about presenting on a panel with three other CNF writers. Asked the opening question: What is Creative Nonfiction?, “All four of us exchanged a look. I laughed nervously, as I tend to do when I’m not sure how to answer a question. The seconds passed.”

It’s not that they weren’t prepared for the question, Elliott explains, or hadn’t joked about the challenge of defining the form. “Unfortunately,” she tells readers, “I still don’t have a very good definition.”

But, like so many of us, she goes on to share, “Ever since I fell into Creative Nonfiction a few years ago, I’ve been enthralled by the genre’s possibility, its malleability, the way it requires you to push beyond what’s in front of you and see what’s hidden underneath.”

This all-CNF issue, with works chosen from over 600 submissions should indeed provide us all with a broadened understanding of CNF, as Elliott hopes, but at the same time, “ironically, will probably make defining CNF as gloriously fuzzy for you as it is for me. That’s okay, though. It’s part of the genre’s charm.”

Read the full essay here.

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