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Lee Gutkind

School for the Future of Innovation in Society


Writing True Stories That Matter is Lee Gutkind’s Spring 2018 course at Arizona State University’s Washington, DC center.

Even before Lee Gutkind was spotlighted in Vanity Fair in 1997 as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” he was its most active advocate and practitioner. In 1991, he founded Creative Nonfiction, the first and the largest literary journal to publish narrative/creative nonfiction exclusively. He was instrumental in starting the first MFA program in creative nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh and the first low-residency program at Goucher College.

All the while, he was practicing what he was preaching, immersing himself in diverse worlds for months and years and producing dramatic and intimate creative nonfiction books about subjects as rich and varied as the motorcycle subculture, child and adolescent mental illness, baseball umpires, veterinary medicine, and organ transplantation.

When Gutkind began pioneering creative nonfiction, few if any university creative writing programs offered courses or degrees, but he saw the creative nonfiction genre as a way of connecting students with the real world through what he called the literature of reality. Today, poets, novelists, journalists, and playwrights recognize the art and challenge of creative nonfiction, capturing their lives and the lives of others through memoir, biography and other forms of documentary drama. Creative nonfiction is the fastest growing genre in the publishing industry and the academy.

Gutkind has now embarked on another creative nonfiction journey, introducing the literature of reality to a new set of practitioners—scientists, engineers, policy scholars, mathematicians, roboticists, and philosophers—outstanding innovators and scholars who are pushing the envelope of change. “The world has been transformed,” he says. “There’s so much for the general public—the people whom innovation impacts—to understand, appreciate, and debate, and very often the people responsible for this new world are unable and perhaps unwilling to share their knowledge. I wanted to teach them how to write true stories that inform, entertain, and compel readers to want to learn.”

Gutkind has presented his “True Stories That Matter” techniques ideas to record-breaking audiences at the National Press Club in Washington, DC; to scientists and engineers at the National Academy of Science; to advocates at Earth Justice; to teachers and administrators at the Institute for Learning; to scholars at the International Design Frontiers national conference; to the prestigious Council on Healthcare Economics and Policy at Princeton University; and to librarians, museums, and creative writing programs from China to Australia to the Middle East.

At Arizona State University, he founded the ThinkWritePublish program, supported by The National Science Foundation (Science in Society) and the Templeton Foundation (True Stories About Science and Religion). Gutkind is a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. He is—has always been—a writer with a purpose and a man on a mission.

Additional links:

13 PublicationsView All Publications

Gutkind, Lee. 2015. "Un-Gala." Lecture and Workshop. Walton Sustainability Initiative, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.

Gutkind, Lee. 2015. "You Can’t Make This Stuff Up." Conference. Rivers Club, Hippocampus Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference, The First Person Conference, Pittsburgh, Lancaster.

Gutkind, Lee. 2015. "Writing True Stories That Matter." Lecture and Workshop. National Press Club, Center of Organizational Research and Design at the Institutional Design Frontiers Summit, The Health Industry Forum’s Annual Princeton Conference: Challenges Facing the U.S. Health Care System, Institute of Learning Writing in ELA and Mathematics, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Princeton.

Zirulnik, M. L., Gutkind, L., Guston, D. 2015. The rightful place of science: Creative nonfiction. Tempe, Arizona: Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.

Gutkind, L., Bradley, A. 2015. Oh, baby: True stories about conception, adoption, surrogacy, pregnancy, labor, and love. Pittsburgh: In Fact Books.