This Time It’s Personal: Teaching Academic Writing Through Creative Nonfiction (O’Connor)

In my experience, it has long been true that once students reach high school, creative writing goes out the cliched window. Sure, there are cute assignments, and maybe a creative writing class, but high school, it seems, is about college preparation. And we all wrote thesis-driven essays in college, didn’t we? So we need to prepare our students for that in high school, right?

O’Connor questions this notion and argues for the use of creative nonfiction, another term I’ve struggled to understand. Here it seems to mean nonfiction presented in a creative way (which seems to be any form that’s not a 5-paragraph essay or a research paper). He offers alternatives like Writing Haibun (look it up!) and Exploratory Essays.

The practical parts of this book are less useful. There are a few tips and countless examples. I admit I didn’t read all of them. They’ll be useful if I try one of these genres, but perhaps extra models could have been placed in an appendix.

I wish O’Connor had done more to keep the fact that he teaches at New Trier present. There are implications for instruction that come with teaching at such a place. And I also wish he’d considered the prospect of teaching Creative Nonfiction to those students who may not be bound for college.


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