Ever since I saw Jeff Anderson present at CCIRA in 2017, I’ve been thinking a lot more about narrative nonfiction and the impact it could have on student writing. The first mentor text I picked up was Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal– the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. June 2018 at Denver Comic Con, I moderated a panel about monsters and met Aaron Mahnke, author of the Lore podcasts and books. My devotion to genre fiction, in this case, has expanded to include genre narrative nonfiction about exciting and/or scary things.
This year, I cajoled one of my favorite 8th grade teachers to let me try a narrative nonfiction unit with his students. My idea was to frame the project around urban legends (partly due to my obsession with the Roswell Incident). I thought the students would all be able to find a topic that interested them and they did, eventually. What was harder was guiding the writers toward choosing an entry point for the story. We narrowed the choices down to: plot, character, or setting, but even that was challenging.
What I know now is that I need to build more frames for how I teach narrative nonfiction vs. fiction and I need to both provide and craft additional mentor texts.