An Introduction to Creative Nonfiction Magazine / by Alex Young

Creative Nonfiction magazine covers photographed by Alex Young

Creative Nonfiction magazine covers photographed by Alex Young

True stories are everywhere. People can hear real tales from many walks-of-life in different mediums. The story subjects range in an almost infinite amount of topics, and they often comment on certain time periods, geographic locations or societal characteristics.

In Pittsburgh, a publication called Creative Nonfiction operates to share written works that use "the crafts of storytelling" to explore factual narratives and interviews. What began as an academic journal 22 years ago is now fascinating prose that delivers significance through truth.

Issues of Creative Nonfiction magazine publish quarterly, and educated, suburban Baby Boomers enjoy the text-heavy compositions. Although there is a young Generation X and Millenial influence felt around the magazine and inside the CNF office that Lauren Boehm, the building and events manager, showed me.

CNF issues at HQ

CNF issues at HQ

Part of Boehm's objective with holding events at CNF's headquarter is exposing the magazine to a more youthful audience and to those who are engaged with the contemporary, creative culture in Pittsburgh and other cities nationwide. The building's location one street over from Penn Avenue's art district, which many Pittsburghers frequent for gallery crawls, like First Friday, plays a pivotal role in the magazine's growth within the community. Establishments like Boom Concepts diversifies the artsy East Liberty neighborhood that Creative Nonfiction situates itself in. 

Creative Nonfiction also interacts with local academia. Find some Chatham University students from Shadyside as contributors to the magazine. Additionally, various advertisements for postsecondary institutions' writing-centered Master of Fine Arts degree sprinkle throughout magazine editions. Chatham, City University London, Northwestern University, and Sarah Lawrence College feature in CNF issue 45. The college listings allude to Creative Nonfiction's reach across the United States and abroad.

While Creative Nonfiction has roots in Pittsburgh, their focus as a literary magazine draws mass appeal due to the numerous and talented authors who the magazine publishes. Having a title that represents a college program and genre keeps the quarterly relevant too. 

One thing that Creative Nonfiction's young audience has to understand is that the work is "true stories, well told," reads their slogan. Those who enjoy reading good long-form or short-form stories by good writers should pick up CNF. Though the organization does well by offering programs that quick-reading people could get into. Tiny Truth Contests dares Twitter users to tell an interesting true story in 140-characters or less. "'I don't have any cash on me,' he said. The Moscow traffic cop, waiting for his bribe, pointed. 'There's an ATM right over there,'" @amalchik wrote in her online micro-essay.

The content the magazine values is cleverly written true narratives. Each piece displays literate skill on an interesting topic from special perspectives thanks to artistic authors. Ears are top of mind in Steven Church's piece, "Speaking of Ears and Savagery." Regarding the body part, he references Tyson vs. Holyfield II, other worlds, and a wild chimpanzee named Travis. "Grave Robber: A Love Story" titles Joyce Marcel's story following Church's in issue 45 about brutality, crime and violence. The honest tales in Creative Nonfiction are interesting, insightful reads.

Editors of CNF also publish a monthly pocket-size issue called "True Story" that features "one exceptional essay by one exceptional writer." In the first edition learn about two teenage brothers who self-recorded an album in the 1970s, in a log-cabin, and on their family farm. Upon the music's initial release the album flopped, but it was re-discovered and reached critical acclaim in 2008.

Quality storytelling keeps people reading Creative Nonfiction magazine. As the publication continues, it will offer opportunities for skillful writers to share true stories that reflect life from various concepts and backgrounds. Pushing CNF's presence as a media outlet in Pittsburgh that is beneficial to creative writers and storytellers could open up opportunities for CNF to collaborate with the youthful parties who find success in the city's urban environment.

Discover more about Creative Nonfiction and purchase the latest magazine issue, "Learning From Nature," here, as well as "True Story" here.

Creative Nonfiction Foundation

5119 Coral Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15224