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Writing History as Creative Nonfiction

Sat, April 13, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Union E

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Abstract

Environmental historians have a long tradition of trying to find a “usable past,” and to communicate that past to broad audiences. But in order to have a readership beyond our discipline, to inform decision-making on critical issues, we must learn to be not only historians, but writers. In this interactive roundtable session, we will explore ways to incorporate attention to writing and storytelling into our scholarship. The scholars represented are writing an anthology about the making of modern food, in consultation with an independent writing coach (Rubinstein) who was brought in to facilitate the writing, workshopping, and revision process. We’ll share brief insights from our experience in creating the anthology and workshopping the material. Audience participants will also have the opportunity to do quick creative free-writing exercises in response to provided prompts, and to get feedback in small groups. With our audience participants, we will consider questions like: How can we use strategies from creative writing to enliven our scholarship? Is there an inherent tension between historical objectivity and narrative? What is lost and what is gained when we focus on the method and practice of writing? How can we look toward other inspirational writing to build our own historical narratives? What does it mean to write for a public readership?

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