Sheyene (Foster) Heller, M.A., M.F.A.


Education: Bachelor of Arts in English (creative writing) (August 1999)

Master of Arts in English from Kansas State University

Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Goucher College

McNair Project: Interweaving Dialogues: A Student's Changing View of the Tapestry of Nonfiction (1998)

Mentor: Steve Heller, Ed.D., M.F.A.

In his 1978 book, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Author's Vocation, William Stafford said of writing, "Any little impulse is accepted, enhanced. . . . The stance to take, reading or writing is neutral, ready, susceptible to now. . . . Only the golden string knows where it is going, and the role for a writer or reader is one of following, not imposing." Indeed, many writers have referred to creative (or literary) nonfiction as a sort of tapestry of ideas and a process of weaving together many different threads of thought. I believe this metaphor may also apply to the difficult process of defining the genre, however, I do think ideas about nonfiction can be enriched and informed by examining the current dialogue concerning the genre; its rules and boundaries as seen by the authors themselves. Using excerpts from interviews I have conducted with three contemporary nonfiction authors, I hope to illustrate how participation in these dialogues has affected me as a student writer, as well as convey a sense of some of the more confusing and controversial issues surrounding the genre. I believe that by following each individual author's golden thread of thought and allowing a number of these sometimes very different strands to entangle themselves and interact, a sort of tapestry is formed. A picture perhaps not of the black and white limits of nonfiction, but a colorful montage revealing the rich possibilities of the essay form. It is my hope that this essay can provide a glimpse of this seemingly elusive tapestry.