The Creative Nonfiction conference is revamped to focus on the craft and business of writing. | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Creative Nonfiction conference is revamped to focus on the craft and business of writing. 

After a year on hiatus, the retooled Creative Nonfiction Writers' Conference returns to focus on writing about science and technology.

The conference runs Thu., Oct. 2-Sat., Oct. 4, with public events including the Oct. 2 launch for Creative Nonfiction's Pittsburgh in Words publication, at the WYEP Community Broadcast Center, and an Oct. 3 talk by The Physics of Star Trek author Lawrence M. Krauss, at the Carnegie Science Center.

But the bulk of the conference targets working writers of all experience levels with sessions at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, in North Oakland. A day-long Oct. 2 workshop is titled "Never a Dull Subject: The Art of Storytelling." Topics on Fri., Oct. 3, include book proposals and query letters; "Dialogue as Story"; and "Beyond Reporting: The Art of Fact." Panel discussions and workshops on Saturday cover such subjects as teaching writing and selling what you write.

The conference, formerly known as the 412 Festival, is a project of the Pittsburgh-based Creative Nonfiction Foundation, which publishes a journal of the same name. It's edited by University of Pittsburgh professor Lee Gutkind, who's done much to popularize the idea that pairing journalism with such fiction-writing techniques as narrative and character development constitute a genre known as "creative nonfiction."

The conference, which debuted in 2005, once featured more public literary readings by prominent visiting writers (including the likes of John Edgar Wideman), film screenings and a fair-style display for local publishers. Spokesperson Vivienne Shaffer says that the event was recast to fulfill working writers' desire for more short-format courses about specific topics.

This year's science-and-technology theme reflects Gutkind's own interest in the topic and its connection to Pittsburgh. His book Many Sleepless Nights, about organ transplantation, was set largely in Pittsburgh, while 2007's Almost Human: Making Robots Think looked inside the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute.

The theme is echoed in the conference's roster of presenters. Besides Gutkind, they include: Virginia Morell, a correspondent for Science magazine, National Geographic contributor and author of Ancestral Passions, a book about archaeology's famed Leakey family; Rebecca Godfrey, whose true-crime book Under the Bridge delves into forensics; and Discover magazine executive editor Corey Powell.

Other presenters include: author David Prete; CN managing editor Hattie Fletcher; and returning conference favorites Mike Rosenwald, of the Washington Post, and author Rebecca Skloot.

Registration for individual day-long workshops Oct. 2 and 3 is $175. Saturday's series of talks and short workshops is $25. Tickets to the Oct. 2 Pittsburgh in Words event (readings from a book of new essays about Pittsburgh by emerging writers) and the Oct. 3 Science Center talk by physics and astronomy professor Krauss ("Selling Science to Unwilling Buyers: From Star Trek to Eternity") are $10 at the door. Package deals for various combinations of events and workshops range from $50-400.


2008 Creative Nonfiction Writers' Conference Thu., Oct. 2-Sat., Oct. 4. 412-688-0304 or



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