Lee Gutkind on Immersion
November 18, 2008 § 2 Comments
My friend* Eric Parker interviews my friend* Lee Gutkind over at the website Fresno Famous.
As well as founding and editing the magazine Creative Nonfiction, Lee is a major practitioner and proponent of the branch of creative nonfiction called “immersion journalism,” with roots in Capote and links to Kidder and McPhee and Susan Orlean. Lee knows more about “immersion” perhaps than anyone else teaching right now, and has some excellent guidance and observation in the full interview.
A quote: “… that’s why immersions are so wonderful in that you walk into an immersion having an idea, idea A, but by the time you’ve spent three months or six months, you have a new idea, or a different formulation of your idea. Then, if you spend another year or two, your idea sophisticates and focuses even more. So, it’s a constant balancing challenge to make sure that you are giving the subject the proper attention.”
*(As a side note, it is continually fascinating how small the literary world seems when you’ve been knocking around in it for twenty years or so. I met Lee many years ago as a student in Pittsburgh; and came to know Eric just this past summer in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The six degrees of separation game in the writing world sometimes seems too easy — it should be one or two degrees of separation.)
This is great, and I am going to go away and read it. But I have to add there are only two things I know about writing, and the importance of immersion is the first. As recently wrote on my blog http://richardgilbert.wordpress.com/:
“I am certain the best writing comes from immersion. It may be immersion mostly in self for classical essay, memoir, or poetry. It may be primarily immersion in a foreign world, discipline, or time period for literary journalism, personal essay, or history. If a writer immerses, goes deep, it sure makes storytelling easier; one must know about what one’s writing about, and this precedes technique. Immersion, of course, is hard work.”
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