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One of my favorite parts about attending the University of Kansas is when I get the opportunity to meet authors, poets, and other writers in general. The English department (or creative writing) program here is pretty great that way. There’s always someone speaking on campus, but, even more so, authors sometimes come directly into our classroom.
On Wednesday, April 10, that is exactly what happened in my NonFiction Writing I class.
Robert Rebein, author of “Dragging Wyatt Earp: A Personal History of Dodge City,” came in, and, instead of taking the time marketing his own novel, guest taught us how he wrote nonfiction. He also answered our questions, elaborating on many aspects of writing we–as students–were wondering.
Specifically, other than truly enjoying his novel, he talked about how a writer should look at nonfiction writing. He explained how he writes under the philosophy, “Everything is in service of theme.” As an example, he talked about an location-themed essay. He then said you write about that place, but you always stay under the umbrella of what the place means to you (rather than adding frivolous that may not have anything to do with why it means something.)
I really enjoyed his advice. He was very relatable, and he easily adapted to our class (he is a teacher) in the sense that many of our students generally write fiction, and he compared the elements of fiction and nonfiction. He even admitted that he learned fiction, decided to take elements from it, and then moved over to nonfiction. Like James Baldwin’s personal essay’s, Rebein creates a memoir-essay that responds to life honestly, using personal ethics to bring life to the life he lived so many years ago and the history of the Midwest that lived so many years before him.
Robert Rebein is a great author to check out. Just in the first few pages, I had one of my favorite quotes:
“If the Old West was about blood and money, the New West is about return” (6.)
I definitely recommend his work if you enjoy nonfiction. By clicking any of the links, you will be sent to his page for more information.