12

Workshop #

12

Writing The Line Between Autobiography And Fiction

By

Robin Hemley

In 1977, French novelist Serge Doubrovsky came up with the term “autofiction” to describe his novel, Fils. Exactly what autofiction is has been hotly debated, first in France and later in the U.S. and U.K. ever since. Autofiction is not simply another name for autobiographical fiction. Depending on who’s using the term and in what context, autofiction might come close to what some writers term memoir, or it might come closer to the ironic metafictional treatments of Self popularized by such writers in the 1960’s and 70’s as Kurt Vonnegut and John Barth and more recently, Ben Lerner and Michael Chabon. In this workshop, we will sample it all, reading and writing “Fiction of strictly real events or facts” as well as fantastical and allegorical representations of ourselves, using much of our real biographical information, but not much else. If you like the idea of exploring writing that takes you to an exciting but sometimes uncomfortable spot between real and imagined versions of yourself, then this is the workshop for you.

In advance of the workshop, I will make available to you several examples of different types of autofiction to use as models for your own autofictions.

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Biography

Robin Hemley has published fifteen books of fiction and nonfiction. His most recent books are the autofiction, Oblivion, An After-Autobiography (Gold Wake, 2022), The Art and Craft of Asian Stories: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, co-authored with Xu Xi (Bloomsbury, 2021) and Borderline Citizen: Dispatches from the Outskirts of Nationhood (Nebraska, 2020, Penguin SE Asia, 2021).  He has previously published four collections of short stories, and his stories have been widely anthologized. His widely-used writing text, Turning Life into Fiction, has sold over a hundred thousand copies and has been in print for 25 years. His work has been published and translated widely and he has received such awards as a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, three Pushcart Prizes in both nonfiction and fiction, The Nelson Algren Award for Fiction, The Independent Press Book Award for Memoir, among others. His short stories have been featured several times on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” and his essays and short stories have appeared in such journals as Creative Nonfiction, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and many others. He is the Founder of the premier international nonfiction conference, NonfictioNOW and was the director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at The University of Iowa for nine years, inaugural director of The Writers’ Centre at Yale-NUS, Singapore, and is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  Currently, he is Inaugural Director of the Polk School of Communications at Long Island University-Brooklyn, Director of the MFA in Writing, Parsons Family Chair in Creative Writing, and University Professor. He has had artist residencies at The Bellagio Center at Lake Como, The Bogliasco Foundation, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, and others.