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Barbara Janoff

Based on submission of an excerpt of my current project, a work-in-progress, tentatively titled, American Ritual: In Appreciation of Multiculturalism, I was accepted into the creative non-fiction section that met from July 17-28. Creative non-fiction is a genre that takes many forms and transcends the boundaries of fiction, journalism, and memoir. It is taught as a writing course within the honors program at FIT. Works of creative non-fiction are also included in our literature courses, such as "Short Fiction," "American Literature," and "Poetry," which I teach.

Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of the journal, Creative Nonfiction, defines the genre as: “the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. This general meaning of the term is basically acknowledged and accepted in the literary world; poets, fiction writers—the creative writing community in general—understand and accept the elements of creative nonfiction.”

With the input of creative nonfiction workshop leader James Miller and some of the attendees, I have gained clarity on possible directions for the development of my book. I refer to both rhetorical and formal organizational principles. In addition to my book, I received valuable feedback on a related 5500-word essay that I brought to the Institute. That essay, “Migration,” which considers different ways in which first- and second-generation Americans might self-identity, is now ready to be submitted to potential publishers. 

Each of the two weeks had the same organization: three afternoons for workshop meetings, two for craft discussions, and five evenings of public readings. Noteworthy authors, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, Mary Gordon, Francine Prose, William Kennedy, and Russell Banks among others, gave readings and most participated in afternoon sessions that offered insights into their processes. I also engaged with newly-met colleagues with whom I shared work and ideas. In fact, many on-campus meals turned into impromptu sessions in which we “talked” writing. Mornings were reserved for writing and research, which I found extremely productive. I have attached a partial “Works Cited” draft for your information. 

Last and hardly least, I had the experience of being a "student" for two weeks, an invaluable opportunity for a senior teacher whose student days passed some time ago. Switching roles is a great way to revisit what it feels like to be on the other side of the classroom. I value empathy and respect in my teaching and welcomed each reminder of the challenges teachers face to communicate effectively and kindly with students. I look forward to bringing my New York State Summer Writers Institute experiences to the literature and writing courses that I teach. 

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