October 23, 2013

Hybrid Forms

by Markey Koga

shannon-funhome.jpg
Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic Src: my.uarts.edu

With Columbia College Chicago’s Creative Nonfiction Week 2013 in our midst, I’ve been anticipating the poignant voices and perspectives of this year’s artists as they take yet another step forward in the innovation of creative nonfiction.

As CNF’s limits within the literary world have been widely debated for some time now, this year’s emerging and familiar artists put forth fresh forms that argue ferociously and resiliently against those claims. They acknowledge the issue of truth within creative writing, which often unjustly categorizes an author’s work into the "appropriate" genre, by understanding and using the overlooked yet boundless possibilities that a blank essay’s page can offer.

This year’s theme features artists who have transcended the generic boundaries of the essay in creative writing, defying expectations and redefining the genre itself. Using conventional techniques of fiction, poetry, film and other forms of storytelling with journalism’s vow to facts, CNF Week is showcasing exciting forms of hybrid writing such as the graphic essay and comics, journalism, radio, live performance storytelling, and film.

Hybrid forms are accumulating popularity among CNF writers around the world and are capturing the attention of its literary brothers and sisters. Traditional essays will never be a thing of the past, they are far too liberating of a creative space to discard. However, in present time they will continue to be queered, testing CNF’s allegiance to truth and creative comprehension of space.




Favorite Examples of Hybrid Forms


Welcome to Pine Point by The Goggles
I especially love this example because its existence as a form of CNF, even within the subgenres of hybrid writing, is queer. Not a website, nor is it exactly a video essay, movie, or film, this multi-modal composition rejects usual demands for the clarity that labels offer.


Jane Addams’ Travel Medicine Kit by Terri Kapsalis
Terri Kapsalis coordinated with forensic and pharmaceutical experts to test the medicines in Jane Addams’ Travel Medicine Kit. By blending fiction and nonfiction genres with an emphasis on journalism, Kapsalis creates a work of creative nonfiction that is both historically and factually accurate while remaining fictional in nature.

The Hull-House Museum was at one time Chicago’s first settlement home. Jane Addams built it in 1889 as a place where immigrants of diverse communities were able to acquire the necessary tools to survive. In her time, Jane Addams was a forward and liberated thinker. The museum has adopted her perspective by challenging guests today to think about and observe things more closely in relation to the labels we attach to them. Their Alternative Labeling Project encourages all to view history from a fresh perspective.


Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel was certainly not the first to widen the breadth of the essay in CNF, however, she has attributed to the innovation of memoir. In this best-selling graphic memoir, she presents through her language and illustrations, evidence of the advantages that hybrid writing can lend to storytelling. Visit her personal website to learn more about her work.

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