This text had its inception at a national conference of writers. I sat in on a panel made up of widely published nonfiction writers, prepared to team a thing or two. Before the readings, they discussed the genre. One of them said cheerfully, "Just what is creative nonfiction? Who knows? I guess it includes just about everything." I wouldn't have minded if the statement had been made at a gathering of electrical engineers. They have their area of expertise and we writers have ours. But these panelists were writers. Experts. We came to hear them, pencils in hand. If electrical engineers were that careless about their trade, there would be fires all over town. Clearly, a textbook was called for. The book, I decided, should explain why creative or literary nonfiction is different from utilitarian nonfiction. Significantly and definably different. That would be step one. The book should help students to examine literary nonfiction with the care it deserves. It should guide them in the art of close reading, their key to writing fresh and insightful literary nonfiction on their own. My hope was to write an anti-textbook textbook. That is, a work that would persuade readers that the most effective study of literary nonfiction is literary nonfiction itself. Why write a book that challenges its own existence? Because not all students have mastered the art of close reading, and because without that rewarding and essential ability, they may find it difficult to improve their writing on their own. There is a kissing-cousin relationship between this volume and my other textbook,Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction, and Drama,also published by Prentice Hall. Or perhaps they are more like grandfather and grandson. Three Genres has been in print for close to 40 years and is now in its seventh edition. For a while I was tempted to include literary nonfiction in that text, replacing the drama section. But the demand for a nonfiction text seemed too great for such an amalgamation. Here's the approach. Part One has eight chapters that define the genre, describing its various forms and giving advice on how to establish a focus and a sense of structure. There is an important chapter on literary aspects, those pleasurable elements generally ignored in utilitarian prose. Another chapter deals with ethical concerns: what is right by everyone's standards, what's in the gray zone, and what is just dead wrong and can land one in jail. The final chapter in this section deals with how to read. Why does this come last? Because it takes that long to persuade many readers that they're probably missing much of the subtly and beauty of literary writing. Part Two includes 14 contemporary essays. They have been selected to illustrate different types of literary nonfiction, such as personal experience, the biographical sketch, opinion pieces, a sense of place, and the like. Eight of these essays are analyzed to help students see how the work approaches that kind of essay. The other six essays are marked "For discussion." That means I have, with admirable restraint, kept quiet. My only guidance is a brief introduction entitled "What to look for." Students will have read one or two somewhat similar essays; now they are being asked to do their own analysis. I want to encourage students to read analytically on their own. Once they can do that, they will have the power and ability to discover their own unique voices. Although I have been describing this text as if it were designed for classroom use only, I hope it will be useful for those many individuals who are not presently taking a course. For them, essays marked "For discussion" can be thought of as "For thoughtful examination." Those who keep literary journals will benefit fromMinot, Stephen is the author of 'Literary Nonfiction The Fourth Genre', published 2002 under ISBN 9780130991805 and ISBN 0130991805.