Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction

B.J. Hollars provides a multifaceted approach to nonfiction that has a direct application to the writing classroom.  Contributions from leading literary nonfiction writers like Michael Martone, Wendy Rawlings, and Dinty Moore make this book a must for any literary nonfiction class.

BlurringBlurring the Boundaries                                              

Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction

Edited by B. J. Hollars


2013.280  pp.




Contemporary discussions on nonfiction are often riddled with questions about the boundaries between truth and memory, honesty and artifice, facts and lies.  Just how much truth is in nonfiction?  How much is a lie? Blurring the Boundaries sets out to answer such questions while simultaneously exploring the limits of the form.

This collection features twenty genre-bending essays from today’s most renowned teachers and writers—including original work from Michael Martone, Marcia Aldrich, Dinty W. Moore, Lia Purpura, and Robin Hemley, among others. These essays experiment with structure, style, and subject matter, and each is accompanied by the writer’s personal reflection on the work itself, illuminating his or her struggles along the way. As these innovative writers stretch the limits of genre, they take us with them, offering readers a front-row seat to an ever-evolving form.

Readers also receive a practical approach to craft thanks to the unique writing exercises provided by the writers themselves. Part groundbreaking nonfiction collection, part writing reference, Blurring the Boundaries serves as the ideal book for literary lovers and practitioners of the craft.

B.J. Hollars is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He is the author of two books of nonfiction, Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America and Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa, as well as a collection of stories, Sightings.

Guest Post, Brad Modlin: Giving Writerly Thanks on Friendsgiving

“Happy Thanksgiving everyone!” by Satya Murthy is licensed under CC by 2.0

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is when we go around the table and say for what we’re thankful for.

For an electronic Friendsgiving dinner, I’ve asked some folks what they are thankful for when it comes to writing, reading, and teaching.


Angela S. Gentry:

“I’m thankful writing is the kind of friend you can always cycle back to, even if you haven’t talked in a long time.”

Becca J.R. Lachman:

“That the eclectic, wobbly pile of books on my bedside table never runs dry thanks to so many writer friends and mentors!”

Eric LeMay:

“I’m thankful for books that wait patiently on the bookshelf, sometimes for years, sometimes decades, until I have the good sense to take them down and read them.”

Wendy McVicker:

“ be part of a community (across time and space) of noticers..and noters, expanding my world with myriad perspectives.”


“Truth: reading aloud a book of fiction in turns sparked more joy in me and fellow inpatients than any prescribed therapy.  We rebuilt our lives with books, journals, lists, doodles: hope.”

Dinty W. Moore:

“I am thankful for those writing friends who tell me when I am spewing total B.S. I am thankful for Billy Pilgrim. I am thankful that Microsoft Word has cut and paste.”

Jennifer Pullen:

“My students give me hope for the world because they can argue over who was the better captain (Picard or Kirk) and how we can best begin to live in a sustainable way…all in the same conversation.”

Wesley Roj:

“Prompts- Sometimes this seems like the minority opinion, but for poetry and shorter prose a thoughtful (read: original) prompt can be so invigorating as a teacher or a student. It seems to give you and your students more freedom by convincing you that you have less. In other words, it represents a foundation to build on, and frequently unearths buried treasure.”

Woody Skinner:

“Electronic submissions.”

Karl Stevens:

“I’m thankful that my daughter is forming her understanding of the world by reading good stories.”

Kelly Sundberg:

“I’m thankful for headphones, Pandora, and ambient music, so I can block out the sound of the cartoons my son watches on Saturday morning and write.”

Anne Valente:

“I’m thankful for the generosity and kindness of so many people in the literary community. I was just talking about publishing and writing with a student this morning (another moment of gratitude, for engaged students who are curious!), who asked what was easier than I might have anticipated about writing. Truly, the generosity of writers and an engaged literary community makes writing all that much easier: having great people to share work with, to imagine possibilities, and to champion each other’s work. I was happy to share this with a student, and happy to have the chance to reflect on how true and vital this is, and how grateful I am for it.”

Bess Winter:

“The community of friends who can talk with each other as writers.”


Me, I’m thankful that my students and writer friends are willing to play games. I’m thankful that when writing, you don’t feel pressured to multi-task. Instead, you get the chance to daydream. At the same time, I’m thankful for this mindfulness bell that helps me concentrate:

Thanks everyone for your answers. SR blog readers, you’re invited to add your thankful-for’s to the list by leaving a comment below. And please pass the sweet potatoes. –Brad Modlin