Connie, Bettyann, and all, Don't be confused about creative nonfiction. The creative part doesn't mean making up things. Coming from an MFA in creative nonfiction, I have a few tidbits to offer. In The Art of Creative Nonfiction, Lee Gutkind explains, "Information is the goal of the nonfiction writer--teaching or enlightening a reader is the unalterable mission of all nonfiction. . . . Creative nonfiction is as accurate as the most meticulous reportage--perhaps even more accurate because the creative nonfiction writer is expected to dig deeper into a subject, thereby presenting or unearthing a larger truth (p. 10-11). Connie, your passage about the Henry Mahle, you can add words to convey that you are imagining this happening. Slip them in here and there. You can start: "I imaging Henry Mahle standing in line. . . ." and then go on with your piece. You can add words such as, "He surely thought. . .." and so on. That way your reader knows you don't really know that's the way it was, but it true to the essence of life. That's the key in writing creative nonfiction--you don't make up facts, but your writing is true.
In Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, Brenda Miller and Susanne Paola write, "The task of the creative nonfiction writing [is to] tell the truth, yes, but to become more than a mere transcriber of life's factual experiences." Furthermore, they add, "Simply by choosing to write in this genre, you make an artistic statement. You're saying that the work is rooted in the 'real' world. Though the essay might contain some elements of fabrication, it is directly connected to you as the author behind the text. There is a truth to it that you want to claim as your own, a bond of trust between reader and writer. If you present a piece as fiction, you are saying that the work is rooted in the world of the imagination. Thought the story may contain autobiographical elements, the reader cannot assume that it has a direct bearing on the truth of the writer's life or experience. At some point, every writer needs to decide how she wants to place herself in the relationship to the reader; the choice of genre establishes that relationship and the rules of engagement."
In Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, Philip Gerard asserts, "The hardest part of writing creative nonfiction is that you're stuck with what really happened--you can't make it up. You can be as artful as you want in the presentation, draw profound meanings out of your subject matter, but you are still stuck with real people and real events. You're stuck with stories that don't always turn out the way you wish they had turned out." Gerard asks, "What in the world makes nonfiction creative?" He goes on to explain five characteristics of creative nonfiction: "First, it has an apparent subject and a deeper subject. The apparent subject may be spectacular or mundane. Unlike in a feature article, it is only part of what we are interested in. . . . Second, . . . long after an apparent subject ceases to be topical, the deeper subject and the art that expresses it remain vital. . . . Third, creative nonfiction is narrative, it always tells a good story. . . [so] it takes advantage of such fictional devices as character, plot and dialogue. . . . Fourth, creative nonfiction contains as sense of reflection on the part of the author The underlying subject has been percolating through the writer's imagination for some time, waiting for the right outlet. It is finished thought. . . . Fifth, such nonfiction shows serious attention to the craft of writing. . . with interesting turns of phrase, fresh metaphors, lively and often scenic presentation, a shunning of cliches and obvious endings, a sense of control over nuance, accurate use of words, and a governing aesthetic sensibility."
And Bettyann, Rick Bragg's book is creative nonfiction, not in part, but all. Don't confuse the word creative with making things up. It merely means the writer uses all the tools of fiction--description, voice, dialogue, pacing, etc.--to bring passion and excitement to the facts.
I encourage you to read any book I've mentioned. Other good reads on creative nonfiction are William Zinsser's On Writing Well, Stephen Minot's, Literary Nonfiction: The Fourth Genre. You can find others specific to writing family history, too, but I don't have a title at the moment.
Pardon me for this long spiel, but I am rather passionate about this subject. I love writing and reading creative nonfiction, and I want people to understand what it is.