Episode 16: An intimate conversation with Lee Gutkind, the “Godfather” of Creative Nonfiction

Yes, you read it right. The legendary Lee Gutkind graces the Behind the Prose virtual studio for a chat with yours truly.  In this interview, we discuss everything from what time he goes to bed to how he crafted an overall narrative in a collection of stand-alone essays in his book Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather.

Plus, you’ll get the scoop on what he’s working on now and hear the answer to a question that he’s never been asked before!

Here’s a preview of some of the great lessons he gives in this show:

“The overall story determines the _______ and the __________ that you____________.”

“Good advice to writers is to start with ________ __________.”

If you can’t fill in those blanks now, you will be able to after you listen to the show.

After you’ve done all your good listening, head over to the Creative Nonfiction website and buy your passes to the 2015 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference featuring tons of amazing writers ready to share their wisdom with you. I will be there too. Come say hello!


  • At [07:26] learn who first inspired Lee Gutkind to become a writer. After finding success Lee ran into his mentor on the street and their “reunion” is anything but conventional.
  • Lee teaches creative nonfiction to graduate students. Get some insight into how he organizes their workshops by going to [36:00].
  • What are some of the Godfather’s opinions on the genre he helped push into the spotlight? Lee’s most excited by a certain aspect of creative nonfiction, which he shares at [51:52].
  • Lee has a secret he doesn’t want the world to know about. Find out what is by skipping to [1:02:04].


Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, and editor of more than 25 books. He is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University and a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Gutkind has lectured to audiences around the world—from China to the Czech Republic, from Australia to Africa. He has appeared on many national radio and televisions shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central), Good Morning America, National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered, as well as BBC World.

Gutkind is the recipient of grants and awards from many different organizations, from the National Endowment for the Arts to the National Science Foundation.

A prolific author, his most recent books include An Immense New Power to Heal: The Promise of Personalized Medicine and an anthology, At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die.

His new book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, is described by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin, as the “essential and definitive guide to creative nonfiction . . . engaging, useful, indispensable and inspiring.”

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