Monday, May 7, 2012

Considering Narrative Non-Fiction for the Second Day of Children's Book Week

I will be on the faculty of the Florida SCBWI Orlando Conference June 15-16, 2012.  It is my pleasure to co-teach with Deborah Wayshak, editor at Candlewick Books.  We will discuss non-fiction for children.   For this post, I decided to  take on Narrative Non-Fiction for adults with one child's book as a teaser, as both are such hot topics now!

Also, please have a look at the blogs of the six other Guardian Angel Publishing authors included in this celebration of Children's Book Week.  And please vote to win below!

There is, by writing standards, a new'ish genre in town.  What is it?  Narrative non-fiction.  This genre offers a true story that is written in a style associated with fiction. 

This genre in some forms, though, has been around awhile.  People have written memoirs and autobiographies for many years, but the emphasis has not been in a narrative style.

The person credited for bringing narrative non-fiction into the mainstream is, of course, Truman Capote and his journalistic book In Cold Blood.  The book describes the murder of the Cluter family, subsequent trial and hangings of the two accused men.

Capote wrote the book in the style of a journalist, researching and interviewing countless people.  Added to this, he is the narrator of the story and allows his bias to show through.

Are there any criticisms of such a genre?  Indeed.  The problem often sited is no stringent standards or guidelines.  The reader wants to know what is fiction and what is not.  Sometimes the lines are blurred, leading to confusion and even rejection of the work. 

In spite of some criticism, this genre has gained popularity, particularly in the early 21st century. A book such as Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home by Nando Parrado (2006) is a good example.  

And for the kids, the market is just as good.  An example:

The librarian of Basra : a true story from IraqJeanette Winter tells the story of Alia Muhammed Baker, the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq, who saved 30,000 books from Basra's library before it burned during the US invasion of Iraq.

I hope this has whetted your appetite enough for you to take a look at narrative non-fiction! It has become a powerhouse genre in the book market.

If it is done well, accurately and is interesting to kids, it has real merit.  Narrative non-fiction is full of teachable moments and can make such an impact on a child's life.

Look for the genre to continue.

Please visit the other Guardian Angel Authors celebrating CBW! They are:

Margo Dill –
Nicole Weaver –

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I just critiqued a memoir style article. I really enjoyed reading it. I think narrative non-fiction definitely has a place in the market.

  2. Sharon, it's quite true what you say. This is a genre that will not go away, and it's such a good teaching tool in the hands of a good and effective teacher. Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. Hi Nancy,

    Terrific article, I'm printing for future reference.

    Congratulations on the SCBWI speaking gig. Can't wait to hear all about it!

    All the best,

  4. What an interesting post you wrote here. A very good overview for those of us unsure what the term non-fiction narrative encompassed. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nancy, narrative non-fiction is a great topic. Loved your examples, mate. Great books!! And congrats on your upcoming stint at the SCBWI Orlando conference this year.

    BOOKS for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

  6. I am definitely interested in this after reading Katrina and Winter. You did an amazing job. Must check out the Librarian of Basra. I didn't know GAP was doing this cause I've been off the web. but great minds and all that...My blog post this week at Pen and Ink is on the same subject, plus Teacher Appreciation Week and Mothers Day. What book made you a reader?

  7. Good subject, Nancy. Thanks.