“Is it wrong to use the word ‘thrilling’ for a book about research?
Maybe, but as a longtime writing teacher, I am thrilled by the ideas in this book, ideas that push writers away from their small and self-conscious matter and outward into the greater world. Gerard shows us that research and creativity, far from being two opposite poles, are forever intertwined.
This book is an inspiring map that leads us into the world of research, a world large enough to hold both romance and hard fact.”
— David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West
“Gerard fills in a missing part of our thinking about ‘creative writing’: how we inform ourselves. In nonfiction in particular, the writer can only write what she knows, and Gerard offers a map for how to get to a place of knowing.
The research for artful writing must itself be artful, he says, and extend beyond Google into other kinds of archive. I love and recommend this book."
— Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep
“Gerard just flat-out gets it. The Art of Creative Research reveals the true heart of a writer’s quest for knowledge. Gerard understands that research is art and craft. He knows that a great book on research has to cover the philosophical and the practical. He covers technology and humanity, the latest software and the old-school tools. He understands that research is at its core about the human need to know.
Every writer, teacher, and student out there ought to read this book. Gerard has done the rarest of things: He’s written an indispensable book.”
— Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish and cofounder of "River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative"
All writers conduct research. For some this means poring over records and combing, archives but for many creative writers research happens in the everyday world—when they scribble an observation on the subway, when they travel to get the feel for a city, or when they strike up a conversation with an interesting stranger.
The Art of Creative Research helps writers take this natural inclination to explore and observe and turn it into a workable—and enjoyable—research plan. It shows that research shouldn’t be seen as a dry, plodding aspect of writing. Instead, it’s an art that all writers can master, one that unearths surprises and fuels imagination. This lends authenticity to fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction.
Philip Gerard distills the process into fundamental questions: How do you conduct research? And what can you do with the information you gather?
He covers both in-person research and work in archives and illustrates how the different types of research can be incorporated into stories, poems, and essays using examples from a wide range of writers in addition to those from his own projects.
Throughout The Art of Creative Research, Gerard brings knowledge from his seasoned background into play, drawing on his experiences as a reporter and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His enthusiasm for adventure is infectious and will inspire writers to step away from the keyboard and into the world.
“Research can take you to that golden intersection where the personal meets the public, the private crosses the universal, where the best literature lives,” Gerard writes. With his masterly guidance, anyone can become an expert in artful investigation.
Table of Contents
Prologue: On Fire for Research (an Homage to Larry Brown)
1. What Creative Research Is and How to Use It
2. Preparing a Research Plan
3. The Tools of the Trade
4. Archives: What They Are, Where They Are, and How Best to Use Them
5. It Must Be True— I Saw It on the Internet
6. The Archives of Memory, Imagination, and Personal Expertise
7. The Warm Art of the Interview
8. Walking the Ground and Handling the Thing Itself
9. Troubleshooting, Fact- Checking, and Emotional Cost
10. Breathing Life into Facts and Data on the Page
Published: February 2017
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Dimensions: 51/2" inches W x 81/2"inches L
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip Gerard is the author of four novels and six books of nonfiction, including Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina and The Patron Saint of Dreams.
Gerard has also written numerous essays, short stories, public radio commentaries, and documentary television scripts. He teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.