Originality in nonfiction
Author and editor (and faculty member) Marc Aronson is only here a couple of days this residency and won't be around for the faculty interviews tomorrow (when students talk to potential advisors--more of the shopping alluded to in an earlier post), so before he started his talk he described how he likes to work with his students (by email, just in the packets--no other emailing). He concluded this by describing himself as less nurturing than other faculty members. This got a big laugh from the audience. I suspect that writers who are newer to receiving feedback may steer away from him. I haven't decided yet if I'll include him on my list of seven.
I did talk to him briefly about an idea for a nonfiction book--something that would incorporate memoir about moving around a lot with research about the impact of moving on kids along with interviews of kids. He didn't think a lot of publishers would be interested but said a few might. It would depend on how poignant the stories were.
In his talk he did an excellent job of discussing his main topic--originality in nonfiction--with how to write critical essays, one of the main component of our work in the program. He just published an article called "Originality in Nonfiction: A writer for young people makes a case for recognizing innovation," in the January 2006 edition of School Library Journal. He provided copies and we sort of skimmed it as he talked. He used the article as an example of a critical essay.
The main points he made about originality include the following, but if this topic interests you, I encourage you to read the whole thing:
- "Originality can come as much in organization and presentation as in spadework." This makes me think of Candace Fleming's biographies, and in fact, he mentions her early in the article.
- Original ideas and thinking may be invisible to all readers except specialists who are familiar with the sources.
- Finding the right voice and tone for nonfiction is tough.
- Using innovative research strategies contributes to originality.
- And finally the design and layout of the book can make nonfiction sing.
Overall an excellent rhetorical strategy. He may be sort of New York cranky, but I bet he's an excellent advisor.