September 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
We were barely unpacked from our summer vacation in Southampton, consumed with reopening Brevity submissions and screaming at the new interns to take their feet off the mahogany desks in our recently-renovated corporate towers, when we received notice of the first issue of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.
We plan to read the entire issue once we’ve unpacked all the seashells and surplus cases of champagne, but we did dive into Ned Stuckey-French’s brilliant essay on the essay, “Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing.” Not only is Ned an absolutely essential resource on the tradition of nonfiction and the essay going all the way back to that peculiar French guy wrote about his own body odor, he also just saved us about an hour the next time we teach a workshop and someone asks, “Can you define those terms?” Here’s an excerpt followed by a link to the full and amazing and thoroughly fascinating essay:
The personal essay arrived almost two millennia after Aristotle wrote the Poetics, and after several centuries of perhaps too much universality and church doctrine, too many answered questions, too much deferral of particularity and the self, and too little democracy. As a consequence, Montaigne flipped Aristotle’s assertion, arguing instead, “Chaque homme porte la form entire de l’humaine condition,” or “Each man [or person] carries [or bears] the entire form [or impress, or stamp] of the human condition.” For Montaigne, history isn’t less than poetry, because history carries the universal within it. Any living individual can represent the whole of humanity, the possibilities within each of us. Montaigne did not apologize for himself and his new approach, but laid down a challenge instead: “If the world find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not so much as think of themselves.”
The essay sits somewhere between an edited, organized, largely voiceless, researched, fact-based, history-based article and a narrated, made-up, speculative, climactic, imaginary story. It offers a third way, another way to find everyone’s story in one person’s story. The personal essay differs from the inverted checkmark story in that it doesn’t tell (or just tell) the story of an event. Instead it lets you into what a particular person thinks about an event…or a subject, person, place or problem. It offers – or essays – an answer to a question, a question such as “What is an essay?” As a consequence, an essay is more digressive and meandering than a story. It may be a story, says Hoagland, but it is the story of a mind thinking.
Read “Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing” at Assay.
August 31, 2014 § 1 Comment
August 28, 2014 § 7 Comments
Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore was invited to participate in the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR by Thaddeus Gunn, a truly remarkable individual (ask him sometime about Kurt Cobain’s ashes) who also happens to be a kick-ass writer, and author of essays such as “My Life With The Bat Children” and “Slapstick.” Thaddeus was invited by Lauren Westerfield, newly-minted Assistant Essays editor at The Rumpus, Beyond that, the lineage isn’t sure, though we do know (from an authority) that Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat Judas and Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar.
Dinty’s answers to the four Blog Tour questions follow below, and his nominations come after that:
1) What are you working on?
I’m finishing revisions on a book, Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: A Writing Guide of Sorts, or, Curious Meditations on Life, Love, Cannibals, and the Imminent Polar Bear Apocalypse, to be published in 2015 from Random House/Ten Speed. Among the odd things about this book is that one of the chapters is an essay written entirely on cocktail napkins – written in a bar, in fact – and the Ten Speed editors want revisions, so I have to go back to that bar (poor me), steal more napkins, and revise. I am also working on a new essay, about how our sinuses work and why they produce so much awful goop. Sounds fascinating, eh?
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Um, bar napkins?
3) Why do you write what you do?
Partly, because certain things fascinate me and writing about a subject is a way for me to explore my fascination and expand my understanding. Partly, especially in the work that I do that is classified (or could be classified, if someone were so inclined) as humor, I write to amuse myself. I hope that I amuse others as well. I also had a screwed-up childhood, which is nothing unique, but every screwed-up childhood is screwed-up slightly differently, so I write about mine and try to assess the ongoing damage.
4) How does your writing process work?
I am a stubborn writer, and that is the only reason I’ve survived and published stuff. I write horrible first drafts, disappointing second drafts, third drafts that show little promise, and fourth drafts that whisper “kill me, kill me” in a strange, squeaky voice. But I don’t kill them. I keep revising, until some glimmer of an interesting phrase, or idea, or image, starts to raise out of the pile of incoherent words.
My Nominations for the next leg of the BLOG TOUR:
I’ve nominated two dumb guys and two smart women, even though I’m only supposed to nominate three people. Read below and my reasoning will become crystal clear:
Bill Roorbach and Dave Gessner are so stupid it takes two of them to run one blog, Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour. Set aside for a moment the fact that Bill is the author of nine books, has won both the Flannery O’Connor Prize and O. Henry Prize, and is about to embark on a nationwide book tour for his newest, The Remedy for Love, or that Dave is also author of nine books, including The Tarball Chronicles, winner of numerous awards, including the Association for Study of Literature and the Environment’s award for best book of creative writing in 2011 and 2012, the truth is these two guys are pretty much the Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers of literary nonfiction. Neither can operate a digital camera, so their blog author photos are hand-drawn by Gessner. How lame is that?
Eva Langston blogs at In the Garden of Eva. She has published prose and poetry in a wide array of outstanding literary journals, recently landed an agent to sell her first novel, and in addition to writing, tutors Ukrainian students by Skype, designs match curriculum for teachers, and practices a lot of yoga.
Sonya Huber, another smart blogger, has published two outstanding books of creative nonfiction, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir and Opa Nobody, as well as a textbook, The Backwards Research Guide for Writers. She teaches in the Department of English at Fairfield University and once made me laugh a lot in front of Joe “Fredo Corleone” Mackall.
August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
To mark the passing of BKS Iyengar, yoga teacher and visionary, Elizabeth Kadetsky has made available an excerpt of her outstanding yoga memoir, First There Is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance. Take a deep breath, and then read the excerpt here:
August 19, 2014 § 3 Comments
Dani Shapiro writes for The New Yorker on how forging a literary memoir is different from posting to social media, which can often feel “thin and undigested, a skimming over of data rather than a deep sink into the specificity and emotional reality of human experience.” Here is an excerpt followed by a link to her powerful, brilliant, brief piece:
My parents were in a car crash in 1986 that killed my father and badly injured my mother. If social media had been available to me at the time, would I have posted the news on Facebook? Tweeted it to my followers as I stood on line to board the flight home? Instead of sitting numbly on the plane, with the help of several little bottles of vodka, would I have purchased a few hours of air time with Boingo Wi-Fi and monitored the response—the outpouring of kindness, a deluge of “likes,” mostly from strangers? And ten years later, would I have been compelled to write a memoir about that time in my life? Or would I have felt that I’d already told the story by posting it as my status update?
Dani Shapiro’s full piece can be read here.
August 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
An announcement and call for submissions from the editors at Bluestem, a literary journal that New Pages praises for publishing “refreshing and strong” work in “a broad spectrum of styles and aesthetics”:
We are pleased to announce our new Nonfiction Editor, Daiva Markelis, professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. Her short stories and creative nonfiction have been published in the New Ohio Review, Cream City Review, Other Voices, Oyez, Pank, Crab Orchard Review, The American Literary Review, and Fourth River, among others. Her memoir, White Field, Black Sheep: A Lithuanian-American Life, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010.
Bluestem submissions open September 1st. Bluestem welcomes submissions across the full range of creative nonfiction: memoir, personal essay, profile, travel writing, etc. We value the thought-provoking, the entertaining, the lyrical, and the finely crafted. We look forward to reading your best work. Please visit our website for more details: http://www.bluestemmagazine.com/submit/.
August 18, 2014 § 2 Comments
On sites like Medium, Longform, Narratively and The Magazine, longer essays and journalism that goes deeper than a listicle are alive and kicking. Medium functions as a blogging site + famous writers, categorizing articles to make it easy to connect from one writer’s perspective to another. Narratively and The Magazine feel similar to printed issues, scheduling groups of new stories and notifying free and paid subscribers via email. Longform links to new and archived material, with most of their pieces coming from the websites of print journalism sources like Vanity Fair.
But are essays and essayists served by the new emphasis on longer forms in ephemeral and yet minutely trackable media?
In The Essay and the Internet, Orit Gat argues
…what we need is a shift in attitude toward reading online. Look at the language we use: the verbs we associate with reading online, like ‘bookmark’ and ‘scroll’, come from the physical word of books. ‘Longform’ and ‘longread’ are actually some of the first web-specific terms associated with reading that we have come up with. And with that comes the interesting assumption that rigor is built into length.
Ms. Gat questions whether we are reading less and publishing more, and asks, just because we can publish on the internet, should we?