Lee Gutkind

Expert on The Power of Story for Any Industry

“Lee engaged the audience – alternating between sharing stories and having the diverse group share their experiences. It was a powerful participation and I am thankful for the opportunity.” 

—Shed Boren, Director Miami Genesis Conference

Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” is an expert on the power of strong narrative to communicate a vital message. In his latest book The Fine Art of Literary Fist-Fighting: How a Bunch of Rabble-Rousers, Outsiders, and Ne’er-do-wells Created Creative Nonfiction of how he achieved his goal to make creative nonfiction an accepted academic discipline, one as vital as poetry, drama, and fiction. He has spent his career as both a writer and writing professor transforming static information into ideas that make an impact, touch hearts, and change minds. Today there is a necessity for narrative in all forms of communication, both written and verbal—science, healthcare, public policy, business, education—in virtually any field that impacts society. Gutkind teaches audiences of every stripe how to find a story and make it memorable and persuasive. He has presented his ideas to audiences across the world in diverse venues – from medical centers to museums to scientific organizations, library associations, creative writing and journalism programs, and at dozens of universities.  Gutkind has written about his “True Stories That Matter” techniques for the prestigious New York Times “Opinionator Draft” series and discussed his ideas about writing true stories for National Public Radio, where he has served as a story consultant and coach.

In his Fine Art of Literary Fist-Fighting talk Gutkind tells the true story of how creative nonfiction became a leading genre for both readers and writers in the twenty-first century, documents the evolution of the genre, discusses its leading practitioners, and highlights its ethics, including how writers handle the distinction between fact and fiction.

Research demonstrates that people remember more information for longer periods of time when that information is communicated in story form.  People are more easily persuaded to accept ideas and take action when they read true stories. Gutkind shares his true story writing wisdom with audiences in talks based on in his book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction – from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between.

Gutkind practices what he preaches, authoring or editing creative nonfiction true stories that include highly praised anthology I Wasn’t Strong Like This: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse, which the New York Times called “beautifully wrought.” Some of his other books include Almost Human: Making Robots Think, Many Sleepless Nights: The World of Organ Transplantation, Stuck in Time: The Tragedy of Childhood Mental Illness, and One Children’s Place: Inside a Children’s Hospital.  He is also the editor of the anthologies Same Time Next Week: True Stories of Working Through Mental Illness, At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die and For the Love of Baseball: A Celebration of the Game that Connects Us All.

Gutkind is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish narrative nonfiction exclusively. 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 and has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including The Steve Allan Individual Award, by United Mental Health, Inc., Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, Meritorious Service Award by American Council on Transplantation, Howard Blakeslee Award by the American Heart Association for “Outstanding Journalism,” and Golden Eagle Award by CINE, for the film, A Place Just Right. He is the recipient of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. Gutkind is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in the East, International Men of Achievement, International Directory of Distinguished Leadership, Who’s Who in American Publishing, and Who’s Who in American Education.

Praise for Lee Gutkind’s Talks

“Lee is one of those rare gifted writers who are also eloquent speakers—and importantly, entertaining speakers, who engage an audience and hold their attention from start to finish. In particular, the transplant surgeons and their staff loved his talk about organ transplantation.”

—Anand B. Karnad, MD, Division of Hematology-Oncology,

Professor of Medicine, UT Health MD Anderson

“Lee Gutkind is the total package! Not only is he the authority on creative nonfiction, but he is also a compelling, entertaining, and flexible speaker. We were fortunate to have him on campus for several days, during which he read his own excellent work, lectured on genre and craft, and created an energetic dialogue with students and faculty during a series of class visits. We all learned a lot from Lee, and enjoyed ourselves very much in the process!”

—Amy Lemmon, Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC

“Lee brought such passion, thought, and enthusiasm to the discussion.  Our audience was clearly rapt, and many people told me afterwards how much they enjoyed the program . . . Lee is a superb storyteller and can teach anyone how to tell great stories at the same time.  We’d be honored to have him back for a future program.”

—Frances A. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., Curator of Public Programs

Museum of the City of New York

“Lee Gutkind delivered a compelling presentation focused on the nursing titled, ‘Nurses: Heroes of the Healthcare Profession’, which inspired and resonated with our audience.”

—University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Nursing

“Podium? What podium? Lee Gutkind lights up a room. His keynote was as entertaining as it was informative, and his energy level super high. He was quite personable during the book-signing, and he gave all attendees undivided attention as they approached the table.”

—Donna Talarico, Hippocampus Magazine’s HippoCamp Writers’ Conference

“Lee Gutkind is a thoughtful and intelligent speaker who deeply understands the world of healthcare from the multiple perspectives of cultural observer, savvy layperson, and insightful writer. He brings his own personal vision to the healthcare zeitgeist, and any audience would be well served by being in his charismatic presence.”

—Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC

Nurse, blogger, writer, speaker and RNFM radio host

“Lee’s presentation was exhilarating, substantive, and extremely well received by our faculty and others in attendance. It was refreshing for attendees to receive his challenge to embed story into their curricula and co-curricular programming and also to think seriously about penning their own personal stories. . . he was most giving in terms of sharing ‘his tools of the narrative non fiction trade’, and in that regard the take-aways from his presentation were tremendous.”

—Malou C. Harrison, Interim President

Miami Dade College, North Campus and West

“Lee Gutkind – the Godfather behind the creative nonfiction movement – is as compelling on stage as he is on the page. Gutkind is a mesmerizing storyteller . . . even when addressing the art of telling a story. And in this era obsessed with reality, no one is better prepared to address the complexity, richness, and history of true narrative.  We simply can’t get enough of Mr. Gutkind. We plan to bring him back again and again.”

—Neil White, Director, Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference

Creative Director & Publisher, The Nautilus Publishing Company

Author, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

“Kudos to Lee Gutkind, a professional all the way.  Gutkind’s presentation expanded our core audience of art-lovers. University students were enamored to meet such a well-spoken writer, while the general community was captivated by his research and experience. Can’t wait for an opportunity to invite him back to our museum and university.”

—Aimee Geist, Education Curator, Ulrich Museum of Art,

Wichita State University

Praise for I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse

“It is beautifully wrought, but more significantly a reminder that these ‘semi-invisible’ people, as Lee Gutkind calls them in this new book, are now the ‘indispensable and anchoring element of our health care system.’”

—Jane Gross, the New York Times

“If you can afford reading only one book of non-fictional medical narratives this year, this book should be it! . . . Nurses:  in the words of Patricia A. Nugent, I hold your service in gratitude and salute you for a book well-written…and a job well-done.”

—Zohar Lederman, Ph.D., The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine

Praise for You Can’t Make This Stuff Up


“The essential and definitive guide to creative nonfiction. It is engaging to read as it is useful. Any writer or reader will find it indispensable and, frankly, inspiring.”

—Susan Orlean , New Yorker writer and author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin

“Lee Gutkind has written the bible for creative nonfiction. Written with muscular, driving, clear prose, it’s hard to put down. Even if you never want to write, you’ll want to read this.”

—Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones


Praise for Almost Human


“. . .Fascinating. . . Excellent reporting. . .chapters are filled with humanizing anecdotes about each researcher – and they are a zany bunch. One man subsisted for a time on Cheerios, chocolate milk and Budweiser. Another claimed to have wrestled a gorilla on a dare. Each set of quirks sets the stage for the researcher to explain why his work could someday change the world.”

The Wall Street Journal on Almost Human


“Entertaining. . . Gutkind excels at making complex technical concepts comprehensible and painting vivid word pictures. . . What Gutkind has accomplished — making readers understand why these scientists chase after their quixotic dream.”

The Los Angeles Times on Almost Human


“A compelling account that reveals how far [roboticists] have come, but how far they have yet to travel to create machines with human sensibilities and gumption.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Almost Human


Almost Human is an eloquent meditation on the fragile and increasingly friable line between flesh and metal, dendrites and wires. This book tells the tale of mad scientists and the strangely sane machines they create; in doing so, it illuminates the rarified world of computer science while simultaneously transcending it, or widening it, by bringing to light the essential questions robots raise for us – questions of autonomy, of cognition, of ambition and the toll it takes.”

—Lauren Slater, author of Welcome to My CountryProzac Diary, and Opening Skinner’s Box on Almost Human


“We may be long way from Thinking Robots, the stuff of science fictions dreams, or nightmares, depending upon your perspective, but one day they will exist.  Almost Human provides an in-depth glimpse into the exciting, if embryonic, developments in one of the world’s leading robotics laboratories, where today’s robots now play games and get trained to drive vehicles and scout landscapes, and tomorrows robots will be created.”

—Lawrence Krauss, Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, and author The Physics of Star Trek  and Hiding in the Mirror on Almost Human