Okay, so I'm not a writer. I don't even play one on TV. I'd LIKE to be a writer, but beyond a few stories, I'd like to tell, I possess no formalized tools (read: haven't taken any creative writing classes AND probably didn't pay enough attention in English 101 - much to my regret) to get those stories out.
That's why I liked "Keep it Real." Mr. Gutkind and his team of contributors have assembled several constructive articles regarding necessities for "Creative Nonfiction." Much of what they share moves beyond the Creative Nonfiction genre and can inform the work of the fiction writer.
While the order of the brief articles seemed random (they're alphabetical, dummy!) I frequently found myself underlining passages to which I would want to refer as I worked through future projects. Within a couple of days, I was back in the book, rereading an underscored passage or two.
As I rewrite something that was "perfect" before, as I mold a journal entry into a memoir piece, heck, even as I take notes for a possible idea, many of the tenets of "Keep it Real" guide my efforts and help make my efforts more succinct and efficient. I have license now to be more critical of my work:
"Take a highlighter and yellow in the scenes. If half your essay, more or less, is not glaring and blaring back at you in yellow (I use green), that's a red flag, a warning that your essay may not be infused with enough narrative to compel a reader onward." (page 141) That one piece of advice is more than worth the price of admission for me.
Perhaps this is not the volume for a student in an MFA program or for someone who is studying writing in a formal program. But for someone with a story to tell who is looking for tips and coaching about how to tell it, this book deserves an easily accessible place on the shelf. You'll be referring to it often.