Publishing Wins and Woes

B&N Writers Night

Wednesday at Barnes & Noble Writers’ Night, Todd Bottorff of Turner Publishing in Nashville spoke on writing and getting published. His company is one of the top 101 independent publishers in the U. S. and puts out 70 titles a year. Todd encouraged aspiring writers to define their personal objectives at the beginning of a writing project. He said that the actual writing of a book is easier than the outlining and structuring that goes on beforehand. When you outline, you are working from your head. When you write, you are working from your heart.

Turner Publishing has three imprints and publishes southern novels, calendars and local history, and nonfiction. When asked if he published creative nonfiction, Todd said quickly and emphatically, “No.”


Lee Gutkind’s words rang in my ears — the first remarks out of his mouth on September 29, 2007 in Oxford, Mississippi, in a one-day workshop. “Creative nonfiction is the fastest growing genre in the publishing industry. It’s the fastest growing genre in creative writing academic settings. Creative nonfiction is exploding all over the world — EXCEPT IN THE SOUTH.”

I wonder if the name of the genre throws people off. I mean, after all, who could refuse Pilgrim at Tinker Creek? The name “creative nonfiction” seems to contradict itself. It sounds like the writer is creating fiction in nonfiction, mixing fable and fact … so why not just call it fiction?

Definition: Creative nonfiction is a TRUE narrative that employs the tools of good fiction writing — well-developed characters, vivid setting, plot line, dialogue, strong storytelling voice, etc. — to relate an honest and artful and TRUE story.

Gutkind says, “The word ‘creative’ refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible.”


The Williamson County Council for the Written Word is pleased to bring Lee Gutkind to Tennessee to teach “The 5 R’s of Creative Nonfiction” to scads of Southern writers. We’ve already seen a lot of interest and excitement and even have a few signed up. (If you’re interested, get your name in the pot now! Seating will be limited, and we’re expecting a sell-out crowd months in advance.)

Lee Gutkind


Robbie Bryan, CRM at Barnes & Noble Cool Springs, was excited to report he’s seen the cover and early proofs of Kristin Tubb‘s new middle-grade novel, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. Kristin was in my critique group before her two children were born and her life got crazy with babies and book deadlines, and we worked on the first several chapters of the book in progress — a work of historical fiction set in Cades Cove in eastern Tennessee. I can’t wait to read the ending! I’m not above reading a middle-grade novel.



5 Comments on “Publishing Wins and Woes”

  1. sarahemc2 says:

    I am so disappointed not to be able to drive down for Lee Gutkind’s talk! Sadly, it’s time I knuckled down and found a paying job.

    I’m also sad to hear that you got an emphatic “no” from Turner Publishing on Creative Nonfiction. I, like you, wonder why the South would be so resistant to the genre, when it is so steeped in it’s own culture of story-telling? Reason would suggest that Southern readers and publishers would be among the most excited about memoir.

    But, then again, southern culture has always befuddled me! It’s like Appalachian culture, but with money and stronger opinions, but what a huge difference those things make.


  2. Sherry says:

    No wonder creative nonfiction has an identity crisis. My measure of a bookstore’s stance on creative nonfiction is where they put John McPhee, Kathleen Norris, and Annie Dillard. If John’s in the essay section, Kathleen’s in religion, and Annie’s shelved in nature, I’ll have to work hard to find a new essayist. –Sherry

  3. Kristin Tubb says:

    Hi, Kathy! Thanks for mentioning Autumn – I was thrilled to hear that Robbie shared the cover with everyone!

    Hope all is well! 🙂

    Kristin Tubb

  4. John says:


    Creative Nonfiction and the South seem like kindred spirits, to me. Some of my richest memories come from my years in Richmond, Virginia. The South seems like a place that would generate particularly good Creative Nonfiction. Some of my favorite writers are Southerners.

    As for the Lee Gutkind talk, that sounds wonderful. What a great mind and a great champion of Creative Nonfiction!

  5. I’ve found that if I use the term “essay” or “memoir” people seem to get it right away. Even “narrative nonfiction” doesn’t throw folks. But “creative nonfiction” is really the only umbrella that all these genres can accurately fit under, isn’t it? I’m wondering where Joan Didion’s “White Papers” would be found, in a bookstore, for example? (I got mine at a used bookstore but don’t remember which section it was in.) We’ll just have to write well enough that people will sit up and take notice! So glad you’ll have Lee (Gutkind) giving his one-day workshop in Franklin. Please tell him hello for me!

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