Which Ooligan Book Matches Your Zodiac Sign?

Aries: Leader, Brave, Prepared
Faultland

Faultland tells the story of the three Sparrow siblings who must come together in the wake of a life-shattering earthquake. This book is all about being prepared for the unthinkable, and there is no better sign more equipped for the task than Aries. Like the characters in Faultland, Aries are bold, ambitious, and determined to survive.
Taurus: Stable, Devoted, Patient
Elephant Speak

Much like an elephant, Tauruses have incredible memories and aren’t likely to forget the small details. As you will read in Elephant Speak, trust is the key to winning over a herd of elephants in the Oregon Zoo. Their keeper, Roger Henneous, exhibited the core traits of any Taurus: ambition, honesty, and reliability.
Gemini: Adaptable, Adventurous, Curious
The Step Back

Ed handles whatever life throws his way, even making a 3-pointer every now and then. Like a true Gemini, he is impulsive and changes the direction of his life at the drop of a basketball, but he never gives up. Gemini’s are all about change, transformation, and opportunity, just like Ed finds in The Step Back.
Cancer: Sensitive, Intuitive, Protective
Laurel Everywhere

Like any true Cancer, family means everything to Laurel Summers. When her mother and siblings die in a car crash, Laurel must rebuild her home with her father. While coping with her incredible loss, Laurel is often haunted by ever-changing moods and grief, but at the heart of it all, she finds comfort and healing in her family and friends.
Leo: Warm, Passionate, Dynamic
Iditarod Nights

There is no better sign to warm you up on a cold Iditarod night than a Leo. Leos are fiercely brave and set out to dominate whatever task is at hand, making them the perfect sign to face the harsh and bitter Iditarod. Claire and Dillion won’t stop until they reach Nome, but they’ll find comfort in each other’s arms wherever they go.
Virgo: Logical, Intelligent, Observant
Finding the Vein

Virgos can’t resist a problem that needs fixing or a mystery to solve, making them the clear detective of the bunch. While investigating a murder at a summer camp for adoptees, Sergeant Mikie and fellow camper Isaac must sort through rumors and facts, channeling the attention to detail and perfection of a Virgo. Beneath the haze of suspicion, Finding the Vein is a story about acceptance and identity, with a passion for the truth.
Libra: Empathetic, Charming, Social
The Gifts We Keep

Five different people find themselves part of the same entrancing story that you won’t be able to forget in The Gifts We Keep. Much like a Libra, this story is balanced by love and loss, escape and home, and the sadness and happiness of being part of a family. Empathy and strong hearts are favored here.
Scorpio: Loyal, Determined, Bold
The Names We Take

A true Scorpio would never leave someone behind, and neither will Pip, even when faced with unspeakable trials and tribulations in The Names We Take. In a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by plague, she has no choice but to keep her and her friends alive. There is no doubt that out of all the signs, Scorpios would rule an apocalypse with style and ease, even finding a family along the way.
Sagittarius: Optimistic, Honest, Free
The Ocean in My Ears

Meri Miller lives in Soldotna, a decidedly small and boring fishing town in Alaska. Like any Sagittarius, she dreams of escaping to a far, distant, and way more exciting city. The destination doesn’t matter, as long as it’s new and the ride is great Even when the going gets tough and the days are dark, Meri is tougher and brighter, always looking for the silver lining amongst the clouds.
Capricorn: Ambitious, Serious, Helpful
Breaking Cadence

Standing up for justice and embracing her morals, Rose del Duca is not only a soldier in the National Guard, but also a conscious objector. Pragmatic and morally driven Capricorns are reflected in del Duca’s powerful vocalization of her beliefs. She is torn between duty and conscience, and is constantly testing her strength to its limits and breaking cadence.
Aquarius: Unique, Resilient, Surprising
Odsburg

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the odd one out in a room full of people. As an Aquarius, you are used to being you; some may describe you as being witty, original, and eccentric, but these are also words used to describe Odsburg. Take a journey with the self-proclaimed “socio-anthropo-lingui-loreologist” as he ventures into a fictional land, collecting ephemera and outlandish stories from its inhabitants. Perfect for the curious and creative Aquarius, this one is sure to redefine your reality.
Pisces: Generous, Emotional, Creative
At the Waterline

Forever the romantic, the one with the grand gestures, and the one with the dreamy eyes, a Pisces is often miles away or underwater, reminiscing in memories and submerged in thought. Divorced and haunted by tragedy, Chad once had romantic notions of a sailing life, but he now lives along the river just north of Portland. Meeting the colorful locals and learning about their lives, Chad learns once again to love, trust, and heal at the waterline.

From Knowledge to Power book cover

FROM KNOWLEDGE TO POWER: Spring Update

Since our last update in January, the project team for From Knowledge to Power: The Comprehensive Handbook to Climate Science and Advocacy has made immense developments with the book’s design elements and marketing components. We’re really proud of how far we’ve come with this book, and we’re eager to share it with the world. The book’s launch date, October 2021, is approaching quickly, and we could not be more excited.
We are happy to announce that the visuals for the book are complete and most of the interior has been laid out. For the book’s interior, our main focus was on keeping the visuals simple, while adding a splash of color to complement the aesthetics of the book. We hope that readers will appreciate the minimalist style coupled with the elaborate illustrations. We had a wonderful team design the visuals, and we’re very pleased with how they turned out. We want this book to be used as a tool to help guide and inform readers about climate change activism, and the visuals feed into this goal.
More recently, the project team has been focused on marketing outreach to climate change specialists. A few months ago, we compiled a list of distinguished scientists and climate change activists that might have an interest in the book. Our goal is to get in contact with professionals in the field of climate change who can further engage with the book and pass on its essential messages. While this is true with any book we work with, for this book in particular we want to emphasize the importance of climate change advocacy in the present times. We have also finished the book’s sales promotion video, which will be presented at an Ingram Publisher conference next week. The video features teasers of the book’s interior design and visuals, and highlights the optimism of the book.
For the next couple of months, we’ll be focusing on marketing outreach and social media promotion. The goal of our social media promotion is to convey the book’s positive message toward advocacy, while also highlighting national environmental dates to create awareness for climate change. Our social media posts will revolve around important international climate change awareness days such as World Environment Day, America Recycles Day, and Zero Emissions Day. The climate change awareness days that we chose coincide with the topics and themes of the book, since we are looking to draw parallels between the two. We are currently drafting social media content for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and we will begin posting on social media consistently as we draw closer to the publication date. When curating these posts, we are keeping our audience in mind to provide accessible content and language that’s easily shareable.
For our last update, press-wide we are in the process of passing over managerial roles across departments. Callie Brown, the current project manager, will be graduating from Ooligan this spring and I will be taking over the project until the book’s launch date. I’ve been working on this project team since last September and I’m so thrilled to see this book come to fruition.

Light shining through the trees in a forest.

FROM KNOWLEDGE TO POWER Update

Over the past few months, From Knowledge To Power: Your Handbook to Climate Science and Advocacy has undergone major transformations. Not only was the text itself finished, but it has also now gone through a few rounds of developmental editing and copyediting. One of the most interesting things about managing this project is its long timeline. Because this book is not due to be published until October 2021, it has a little more space to breathe than a normal fiction title published through Ooligan. We acquired this book before it was fully written, so while we had the opportunity to do some preliminary work, a lot of the bigger things were on a longer timeline.

As the text entered its heavy copyedit, my team was busy working on the social media strategy and the tipsheet. Both of these things posed opportunities for us to think about interactivity in the long term. How can we engage our audience? What do posts for other nonfiction books that deal with climate change look like? These are some of the questions that we have been talking about in order to inform what our strategy will look like.

At the same time, there are multiple graphic design processes happening as well, including the cover design. Writing the cover design brief for From Knowledge To Power was a meditation on the type of climate science text we are producing. For instance, on the covers of many books dealing with this same problem, you see dramatic photos—icebergs melting, the world on fire, pollution, etc. One of From Knowledge To Power‘s biggest selling points is that, while it doesn’t pull punches at the harm we have done to the world, it allows for advice and advocacy to envision a greener future. Therefore, when considering the cover, we decided to stay away from the more alarmist photos and focus instead on what we are trying to save.

Right now, the graphics for the book are being designed. I am part of a team of three who are working on creating cohesive scientific images based on the research the author has already done. While this process is challenging in making sure that all three of us stay unified in our designs, it’s really nice to work on a team and to bounce ideas off each other. The most time-consuming part of this process so far was figuring out permissions for graphics—what was fair use, what wasn’t, and what we had to exclude entirely.

It is such an amazing experience to see this book come together, as I have been working on it from the beginning. I am so excited to see all of the things we will produce for this book this term.

Proposals: The Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

Book proposals can be intimidating. Writing the book was hard enough, and now you have to get other people to like it too. The number of resources for writing query letters is infinite, with published authors, agents, and publishers all weighing in on what makes a good query letter. But what about the next step—the proposal package?

The internet has a myriad of sources detailing what goes inside a book proposal, but most of these sources are about fiction. Any time you’ve seen a book pitched in a movie or on television, it’s probably followed this format as well. For fiction, it’s pretty simple:

  • Cover letter
  • Manuscript (or part of it, depending on the agent or publisher)
  • Marketing info
  • Your published works, awards, and credentials
  • Comp titles
  • Page count

In a fiction proposal, the cover letter and marketing info are just as important as your manuscript. In these sections, you have the best chance at pitching your proposal to agents and publishers. So, in your cover letter, you should also include a brief summary of the book that reads similarly to the description found on the back covers of books: enough information to captivate the reader, but not enough to spoil the ending.

As the author, you are not technically responsible for marketing your book; but including any potential ideas for marketing is extremely helpful to the publisher. Not only could it help during the marketing planning, but it also shows your investment in the work and your understanding of the market. This is also a great time to mention any special events that your book may be able to be a part of. For instance, if your best friend is a best-selling author with a strong following, this would be a good time to mention it. Or if there is an upcoming event that the audience of your book will likely be attending, you should include that as well.

Pitching nonfiction can be incredibly different, but it also depends on the type of nonfiction. According to agent Jane Friedman, the proposal expectations can vary a lot for memoir: “Some agents don’t require a book proposal for memoir, while others want only the book proposal and the first few chapters.”

Proposals for other kinds of nonfiction can vary just as much as memoir proposals, depending on the publisher. But in general, they will include these items:

  • Cover letter
  • Target audience or market
  • Table of contents
  • Marketing plan
  • Author bio (What makes you an expert? Why do readers want to hear from you?)
  • Sample chapters
  • Comp titles

Nonfiction proposals often include more information about the author’s platform and expertise than about the quality of the writing. As Friedman writes, “While everyone expects the writing to be solid, they’re probably not expecting a literary masterpiece.” It’s also very common for nonfiction to have a ghostwriter, so keep in mind that while you may be the author, the writing may not be wholly your responsibility.

Proving a market for a book is much more important for nonfiction, especially in this technological age when most information is only a search away. Like in a fiction proposal, the marketing section is where you as the author can show the publisher your expertise and knowledge of the market and your audience. However, this section should also go deeper into why your audience cares about this specific topic. Being as specific as possible here is what will sell the proposal to an agent or publisher.

A Lucky and Successful Launch for ELEPHANT SPEAK

This is the third and final blog post for Elephant Speak in Ooligan’s Start to Finish series. Read the first and second posts for a full picture of this book’s journey to being published!

The month of March 2020 will likely be remembered by Americans as the month when everything we accepted as normal got turned on its head. How strange it is to reflect on events that only transpired two weeks previous to my writing of this post. I speak not only for myself as project manager but also for the book’s author, Melissa Crandall, and for Roger Henneous’s family when I say we are extraordinarily lucky to have enjoyed a four-stop book tour for Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd in the first week of March. With gratitude, I’d like to share some of the joys of Melissa’s book tour in Oregon, which made for a successful launch week that we will all remember for a long time.

The publicity phase for Elephant Speak ramped up during the week before the launch, with features on the book and on Melissa’s upcoming tour. This included an informative feature by Amy Wang in The Oregonian and an article in The Bulletin by Brian McElhiney that highlighted bookstore events scheduled in the newspaper’s own town of Bend (also the hometown of the one and only Roger Henneous). On Tuesday, March 3, the day of the book’s release, Melissa arrived in Portland prepped for a busy week. On Wednesday, she appeared on both AM Northwest and Afternoon Live, where she was interviewed about the book. Her interviews are archived by each show and discoverable on KATU’s website.

Later that evening, our Elephant Speak launch event was hosted by the iconic Powell’s City of Books on Burnside. Melissa presented the book with warmth and perfect poise, sharing photos of Roger and the elephants as she spoke and answering a variety of questions with intelligence and humor. She thanked Ooligan Press, her traveling cohort, Roger’s family, and the rest of the crowd (an estimated 130 people in all), then signed every one of the fifty available copies of Elephant Speak, leaving me to get up and invite anyone who wanted books that night to Rogue Hall, where we would be able to sell a few more books from Ooligan’s own stash! The lesson of the tour was this: don’t underestimate the number of books you may have the opportunity to sell, especially at author events. We carried an extra box of books to each event after that, and we were glad we did.

Thursday saw a small group of us accompany Melissa to the Oregon Zoo, where she joined the regular Asian-elephant keeper’s talk by introducing the book about Roger Henneous’s life and career as a keeper and discussing his familiarity with current residents Rose-Tu and Shine. A past colleague of Roger’s and a few zoo staff who remembered him showed up in support and conversed with Melissa in the gift store while getting their copies signed. They passed on their good wishes for us to take to Roger in Bend.

Bookstore events on Friday and Saturday were held at Roundabout Books in Bend and Sunriver Books in Sunriver, respectively. Roger Henneous and his wife RoseMerrie, together with their daughters and other family, came out for both events. The Henneouses have all but adopted Melissa into their family, which is apparent as soon as you see them all together. Roger humored us by signing books at these events, making for a very special finale.

This project has taught me what the greatest powers of small presses are: focused attention on a few projects (instead of hundreds each year), strong author relationships, and intimate knowledge of a book’s story and content. These factors made all the difference in Ooligan’s ability to support Melissa, market the book to reflect its true focus, and get the book out to the right audiences via publicity and events. My last tip to all (which is especially applicable to nonfiction) is to define a book’s mission before release and then make it news. If you can’t say why your book is special, no one’s going to fill in that blank for you.

Thank you to all my fellow Ooligan managers and project-team members who helped Melissa bring this book to life. The message from Roger was this: “Crackin’ job, kids.”

Indecision at Ooligan

I’ve been thinking about choice a great deal recently. I am not known for being capable of making choices easily. I panic when I am forced to make a choice—and I often make bad ones because of this. I find that I am frozen with indecision, and this isn’t a great place to be when you’re working at Ooligan.

When the press comes together to vote on a new title, I know that one way or another I won’t like the outcome, so I am in the habit of leaving my votes blank—giving up my choice so that I don’t have to take responsibility for it. I am letting fate and the rest of the press decide what I will be working on in the future. And simply living with it.

It is a terrible thing to do. And if you learn nothing else from this blog post, remember this: Do not be like me. I am wrong.

At Ooligan, we make choices that determine the future of our press and the futures of the authors who submit to us. Our decisions about who we say “yes” or “no” to affect how those authors feel about themselves and their work. No one looks to be rejected. Authors send their work into the world to make a connection, and when that connection is declined, it hurts—no matter the reasoning behind it. But while rejection isn’t great, refusing to make a choice is even worse. In doing this, you are not respecting work that the author has placed before you. By not responding, you are essentially ignoring the author and ignoring your responsibility as a publisher.

In publishing, we have the privilege to breathe life into a book many times over through editing, design, and marketing. We get to guide a manuscript through many transformations and make many choices that affect its future. We decide how the edits will shape the story, how the design will frame it, and how the readers will see it in stores.

At the end of all this, a book exists in the world that might not have otherwise.

But not everyone gets the breath of life that you have to offer. You have a limited amount to give. You have to decide. And so the weight of indecision bears down on you, but you shouldn’t ignore your power to choose just because you can’t face the responsibility of it.

I think about the many books that should exist and could exist if someone accepted them. For that to happen, a choice has to be made.

Listen and Learn: How Audiobooks Helped Me Get through College

I’ve known for a long time that I learn best through listening and through verbally discussing a topic. My favorite classes have always been the ones where the professor was a great orator, because it meant I could just sit back and absorb what they were lecturing on. All I ever needed to do was jot down some key words or phrases in my notes, and when I studied later the entire lesson would come flooding back. People thought I was crazy, but it worked for me.

Unfortunately, while entering college meant a lot more lectures, it also meant a lot more assigned readings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fantastic reader—I wouldn’t want to go into publishing if I wasn’t—but only when it comes to fiction. Nonfiction, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

When I try to read any nonfiction, even if it has a narrative component, my brain decides that it can’t focus on the words and I get distracted every other sentence. So trying to read so much nonfiction for my classes—sometimes hundreds of pages a week—was just agony to get through, and on top of it all, I could never remember what I had read.

In my sophomore year of college, I noticed my dad had the audiobook version of a book I had to read for class. Instead of renting it from the campus bookstore, I just logged in to his account and downloaded it to my phone. I plugged in my headphones, set the reading speed to 1.5, and sat back to start listening. An hour or so later, I was completely done with the readings and had even gotten a jump start on the next week’s assignment. I could even remember and understand what I was supposed to have learned. It was like something just clicked into place in my brain.

Listening instead of reading allowed me to experience nonfiction in a way I never had before. When I’m reading, I have no concept of the author’s voice, but when I’m listening, it’s as if the author is casually explaining everything to me in a conversation. I started by just listening to assigned books for classes, but I quickly began consuming books about any subject I found remotely interesting. From the fascinating technical explanations in How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg to the deep insights about life found in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, I listened to it all.

Interestingly enough, it seems like I’m not the only one who’s recently discovered audiobooks. According to the Association of American Publishers, revenue for the nonfiction category has grown by 28.4% since 2013, and “nearly 150 million more adult nonfiction books were sold in 2017 than in 2013.” When possible, every nonfiction narrative should be released as an audiobook. The numbers don’t lie: there’s a whole legion of people out there who are just like me—about 30 percent of the population, in fact—and I guarantee they would love to listen to these books if they were made available in audiobook form.

Nonfiction Publicity vs. Fiction Publicity

The tricky thing about book publicity is that there is no exact formula—no preset way to promote a book. That’s because no two books are the same, and so no two publicity campaigns are the same. However, depending on the type of book, we can use some general guidelines as a starting place. Nonfiction sales have been on the rise as of late. As book publicists, we must embrace current market trends and learn how to use them to our advantage.

Here at Ooligan, we publish all kinds of titles, both fiction and nonfiction. At any given time, chances are we are working on promoting at least one of each. We can’t treat fiction and nonfiction books the same when creating marketing and publicity campaigns for them, because they are different by nature. So what are the key differences when promoting a nonfiction title as compared to a fiction title?

One perk of promoting a nonfiction book is that they have clear, strong pitching platforms. While fiction books tend to be more vague, nonfiction titles have a more defined target audience. The easier it is to pinpoint your target audience, the easier it is to frame your promotional message.

Nonfiction titles are also good to pitch to news media, including TV, radio, and podcasts. This is because they provide information on their respective topics. If the book provides new information or a new perspective on its topic, it can easily be converted into a spotlight or feature story.

Speaking of podcasts, they have thrived as publicity tools in recent years. It turns out that over half of adults in the US have been listening to podcasts, and this type of platform is expected to continue growing in the future. Regular podcast listeners also tend to be more active on social media than non-listeners, so the odds are greater that they will act as grassroots intermediaries in helping to spread the word about your book.

The last important thing to remember when conducting a publicity campaign for a nonfiction title is to focus on timelines. This includes key dates, events, and other timely news topics. If the topic at hand can be connected to any holidays, important anniversaries, or other current events, use these to your advantage and pitch your book in relation to these dates. This can also sometimes apply to fiction titles, but nonfiction themes often have stronger ties to particular dates than fiction books.

Similarly, nonfiction authors make excellent interviewees. If you write a book on something, you are assumed to be an expert on that subject. Simply put, journalists love to interview experts. This expertise can also extend to additional feature stories, expert commentary, and other byline articles. This is especially useful if your author already has their own platform in their given field. For example, Jeff Alworth (author of Ooligan’s latest nonfiction title, The Widmer Way) has his own popular beer blog and corresponding Twitter presence that came in handy when promoting his new book.

So remember that while fiction and nonfiction books should be treated differently when creating a publicity campaign, each has its own advantages. When working on a nonfiction title, plan according to timeliness, utilize your author as an expert, and take advantage of news media, because in this era, the truth is more valuable than ever.

Books, Beer, and Bettering a Manuscript: How Ooligan Press Brews a Bestseller

Ooligan Press, local author Jeff Alworth, and the Craft Brew Alliance have teamed up to bring you Ooligan’s next title: The Widmer Way: How Two Brothers Led Portland’s Craft Beer Revolution. The book, out March 26, explores the rise of Portland’s own beer titans: Kurt and Rob Widmer. From modest beginnings hand-delivering kegs out of an old Datsun to partnering with Anheuser-Busch InBev, from begging for customers to sample their wares to sponsoring the Timbers and the Blazers, the two brothers have never lost their status as local boys made good.

Along with our newest title, I would also like to introduce myself. I’m the project manager for this book, and I am lucky enough to see the project from acquisition through to its publication date. Often, project managers at Ooligan Press acquire a project, get the book up and running, and then hand it off to their successors when graduating from the program, or join the project partway through. For The Widmer Way, we decided on an accelerated publication schedule, which means that the book is going from manuscript to finished product in just one year’s time and that my team and I get to see the complete production. I was chosen to train as a project manager a mere six days prior to Ooligan unanimously voting to take on the book, and my training turned into a crash course of meetings, scheduling, and management.

Once the book was acquired, my trainer and outgoing 50 Hikes manager TJ Carter and I sat down with Ooligan’s department heads to plan out the production schedule. Marketing, social media, acquisitions, digital, design, editing, and our team members all came together to prioritize the schedule and decide where to begin.

Our first priority was, obviously, the manuscript. We called for volunteers (as it was spring break) to do a developmental edit. As Jeff is an experienced author, we started out in good shape, but still needed to spend some time polishing. A developmental edit offers (often significant) changes to the structure, narrative, and language of a manuscript. Our editing team collaborates and offers a letter with our proposed changes to the author, who then makes certain edits and returns the manuscript, often for another round of developmental editing. For The Widmer Way, after one round of developmental and line edits, we were ready to move on to copyediting.

At Ooligan, we often do a heavy, medium, and light round of copyediting. This is where we make more granular changes, rather than sweeping developmental changes. We look for clarity and accuracy, all while maintaining the author’s voice as much as possible. As this is a nonfiction title, we also took this time to do some fact checking and gathering of sources for the information presented in the book.

All the while, my team was hard at work on the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes, no-one-knows-this-stuff-happens-at-publishing-houses tasks. A marketing plan was developed, complete with our wish list of events we hoped to participate in, social media strategy, and the industry-specific details like BISAC codes. We also used this time to create the beautiful cover you now see, courtesy of our own design department head, Jenny Kimura. Covers are voted on by the entire press body, much in the same way we acquire our books. Everyone has a chance to be heard and give their input as to how the design should develop.

In the months since, we’ve completed editing, are zeroing in on completing the interior design and proofreading (wherein we look at the aesthetics of the words on the page, rather than the words themselves), and are in the process of requesting reviews from major publications. In the next term, leading up to the March 26 publication date, we will be designing the ebook, recording the audiobook, and planning an amazing launch party to celebrate the long, difficult, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding road of turning an idea into the next book you pick up at Powell’s.

Memory and Truth: How to Classify Nonfiction Titles

I stared at a tattered childhood Christmas picture. It was the living room of my grandparent’s old house in Atlanta. Wrapping paper covered the floor, my aunts and uncles were still young, and my grandparents were still alive. I took in every detail, hoping the picture would be the catalyst that would allow me to mine forgotten memories. I began to remember little things: the smell of the house, the pattern of the linoleum, the weeping willow in the front yard, and eventually, a story emerged. The question is, are memories true? Can I verify that the events I mined and cobbled together are how things actually happened? Can anyone? If we can’t verify how the events occurred, how can we classify a memoir as nonfiction?

Nonfiction is generally considered anything that is not fiction. This includes reference books, travel books, cookbooks, self-help books, and narrative nonfiction (to name a few). Narrative nonfiction is often misunderstood, as it is fact that reads like fiction. It’s also called literary journalism, fact-based storytelling, and creative nonfiction. The word “creative” can be misleading as it implies storytelling, which is often misconstrued as fiction or historical fiction. Unlike an academic paper, reference book, or journalistic article, in a narrative nonfiction piece the research is seamlessly woven into the storyline. It tends to have characters, a plot, an arc, high stakes, compelling writing, and many other characteristics of fiction. However, a narrative nonfiction writer is not allowed to fill in the blanks with anything that isn’t true.

The two predominant forms of narrative nonfiction are the essay and the memoir. The essay is a conversational examination of a topic or idea and often incorporates research, experiential accounts, interviews, and anecdotes. The memoir is the story of a life, a section of a life, or an event. The memoir is usually written as one sweeping true story or a collection of true short stories. It is a factual account told in a story or narrative format.

If that’s the case, why does nonfiction allow something as unreliable as memories? The idea is that the writer is truly recounting the memory, not whether or not it actually occurred. The experience is born out of the memory of the event. A memoir is a recounting of memory. It has to be a truthful recounting of only what is remembered and what is researched.

While the autobiography offers an encompassing picture of the subject’s life, the memoir offers a glimpse, or pieces, or a complete accounting of a certain part of a life. Trauma narratives such as Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl can shed a new light on atrocities. Travel narratives such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck can give the readers a snapshot of a place in time. Immersive writing such as Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger is another form of narrative nonfiction where the author immerses themselves in a place for an extended period of time.

Historical fiction is often confused with narrative nonfiction. There is an ongoing debate as to where one ends and another begins. Historical fiction is a researched story based in facts, but the blanks are often filled in with a fictional account of what the character was thinking or feeling, made-up dialogue, and scenes that happened behind closed doors.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a well-known example of historical fiction. It is based on a factual account of the civil war. However, Mitchell made up characters, scenes, dialogue, etc. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction. Skloot wrote an investigative and historical account of the He-La cell. She traced the cells back to their origin—a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Skloot expertly laid out a factual account based on nearly a decade of research, while seamlessly creating a compelling narrative.

From the beginning of time, people have written true stories. Whether they are documenting events, examining a topic, or remembering the lilt of their grandmother’s dialect, narrative nonfiction allows writers to creatively craft the truth of their experience.