River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize Series Returns

April 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

straydAfter a one-year hiatus, the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize Series returns in full force, with a new publisher and a series judge.

Beginning this fall, the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize will be published by the University of New Mexico Press. Series Co-Editors, Dan Lehman and Joe Mackall, will continue to screen all manuscripts submitted to the contest, and Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, and Torch, and 2013 guest editor of the Best American Essays, will serve as the final judge.

The deadline for this year’s contest is October 15, 2014. Winners will be announced in January 2015, and the winning manuscript will be published the following spring, 2016.


On Literary Editing and the Nature of Love

April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

rtOur friend Dan Lehman at River Teeth offers a comprehensive, nuanced, and honest look at how editors make their  decisions, with helpful detail on River Teeth‘s active and intuitive process. Here is an excerpt, followed by a link to the whole article:

Fifteen years into this journey, an important thing readers should know about River Teeth is that its two editors once worked at magazines and newspapers where we shaped content and nurtured writers. Hence our love for factual writing that soars in interesting ways. Beyond that, we love clustering great essays and literary reporting into the soul and rhythm of each issue … At heart we always ask two questions: Is this the sort of piece I would want to call the other editor in the middle of the night to say we have to have? And would we die if we saw this piece in someone else’s journal and knew we could have had it for ourselves? Those are the criteria, nothing else really. As we wrote a few issues ago, we will publish the work of friends and acquaintances (even ourselves) if it meets those standards. Only then. That’s all. That our two Best American essays come from writers with close ties makes our case. Both were among the best dozen or so essays in this or any other year; it would have killed us to see them win those prizes for someone else. And we confessed that fact in writing before the prizes were won.

We know all this sounds more than a little intuitive, even presumptuous, and quite a bit less than arm’s length. That’s the nature of love, we guess.

Read Dan Lehman’s full explanation here.

Sonora Wants Essays, Nonfiction, and Hybrids

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Jenny Boully

Jenny Boully

Deadline: May 15th, 2014

Judge: Jenny Boully
What We Want: Essays, nonfiction, and hybrids of up to 6,000 words
Prize: Winner receives $1,000 and publication in Issue 66 of Sonora Review; all other finalists will be considered for publication

Bellingham Nonfiction Deadline Extended

March 31, 2014 § 1 Comment

dillardThe Bellingham Review‘s Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction 2014

Deadline extended to April 1!

$1000 first place award; finalists also considered for publication.

Final Judge: Joy Castro



Submit to Stonecoast

March 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

toolStonecoast Review is looking for submissions.  Creative nonfiction especially welcomed.

Full guidelines here and abridged below.

What We Want:

We welcome writing in the genres of creative nonfiction, fiction, popular (genre) fiction, and poetry. The editorial staff of Stonecoast Review seeks exciting work from both new and established writers. Our goal is to publish innovative and deeply resonant literature that embodies our core values of social and environmental justice, cultural awareness, and international perspectives. We especially want unique, powerful writing that takes chances and brings the reader to entirely unexpected places.

Proximity: A Quarterly Collection of True Stories

March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

pBy Towles Kintz

In the fall of 2008, when I was knee-deep in new motherhood, I received an unexpected opportunity. Maggie Messitt, a friend of mine from graduate school, wanted to know if I’d join her and another Goucher grad, Carrie Kilman, on a literary adventure of sorts.

The plan was for the three of us to launch a blog that would celebrate both the diversity of the world around us and our inherent interconnectedness. We would choose one location or point in time (bus stop, library, evening) and spend an hour there, resulting in a blog filled with immersion and personal essays that would become Proximity.

At the time, Maggie lived in South Africa and worked as a narrative journalist. Carrie had recently moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Madison, Wisconsin, where she freelanced her way through a new city, and I lived in Atlanta and had mostly surrendered my writing life and aspirations to the beguiling work of motherhood.

Each of us sought connection in our own way.

For me, Proximity became a beautiful little lifeline; it was not only an opportunity to reflect and write at a time in my life when reflection, much less writing, was at a minimum, but it also gave me a window to the world during what was an otherwise isolating season of life. When all three of our essays posted, it felt like magic. Each was unique to the author’s perspective, narrative voice and experience, but underlined a sort of universal understanding of and appreciation for one another. The project lasted a year.

Then, in the summer of 2013, Maggie called me again. She wanted to know what I thought about reviving Proximity, but this time as an online literary magazine. Again, each issue would be theme-based. We would choose nine submissions – including flash, mid-range, long form and multi-media – and publish once a quarter. To help elevate this new take on an old idea and build a digital publication that would stand the test of time, we invited Traci Macnamara to join our cross-country editorial team. Together we span rural and urban, southern and northern, Appalachian college town and mountainous ski village.

And so, Proximity was re-born, but this time with greater reach and more varied perspectives. We launched our first quarterly collection of true stories in January with the theme Morning, and in it you’ll find some real gems – offering readers a layered, unqualified rendering of mornings spent in introspection, in observation, and at work. And, just as we sought years ago, we found a single theme through which to highlight our great connections and vast differences around the world, from Antarctica and Botswana to Tennessee and Maine.

This expanded format serves to amplify what our original team started. In an age where connecting so often happens with the help of technology, the stories we publish offer serious grounding in a place or time that may be very different from our own. It is also somehow relatable, and in being relatable serves to foster greater understanding and connectedness in a world that sometimes seems as small as the little devices stuck to our palms.

As a former contributor to Brevity, I would like to invite you, readers and writers of true stories, to submit to Proximity’s upcoming issues (themed: Crossroads, Stuff, Wilderness). For guidelines, or to read our stellar writers’ work in Issue #1, visit www.proximitymagazine.org.

Finding a Market for Your Flash Nonfiction

March 11, 2014 § 6 Comments

flashChelsea Biondolillo shares advice from the AWP 2014 panel, “Getting Short-Form Nonfiction to Readers: A Publication Discussion.” 

The number of journals, both online and in print, that are willing to consider flash nonfiction grows each year. Some of these venues have strict format, word count, or topic guidelines, while others are willing to consider a wide variety of prose configurations.

What follows are some notes on methods and strategies that have informed my own research into finding markets for my own flash nonfiction.

  • Ask around. For two years in a row, I scoured the book fair at AWP for journals willing to consider short, truthy prose. If an editor or representative of a journal said they’d be willing to consider something under 1,000 words, I asked if they had any examples in print—and when they did, I bought them.
  • Use the Google-force. If you don’t have the luxury of getting to AWP, or can’t bear to wait for next year, you can search free resources such as Poets & Writers and search engines. If I can’t find “flash nonfiction,” I look for the magic words, “short prose.” Failing that, I search for a combination of “prose poetry,” “hybrid or experiemental,” and “narrative or lyric nonfiction”—if a journal is willing to consider all three of those categories, they will likely consider flash nonfiction.
  • Practice the form in your cover letter. My cover letter is almost always an exercise in brevity. This is not advice specific to short form publication, but can be used for any and all journal submissions when you don’t already have a personal relationship with the editor. Whatever you do, don’t write a letter that is longer than your submission.


Dear Ms. Brown / nonfiction editor,

Thank you for considering the attached flash prose, “My Tiniest Essay,” for publication in The Pushcart Machine Review. The word count is approximately 250, and this is a simultaneous submission.


Chelsea Biondolillo

 Author bio:

Be brief, professional, and use the third person. Italicize journal names if the format will allow it.

Click here for a list of Flash Nonfiction Markets assembled by Chelsea Biondolillo 

AWP Blogger Shout Out

February 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

Seattle AWP Starbucks logo

With Thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon

We are mightily pleased by the strong response to our call for guest bloggers during next week’s AWP Seattle Conference.  Here is a reminder for those of you who have volunteered:

When your blog post is ready, e-mail to brevitymag@gmail.com   About 500 words is best. Please include a two or three sentence bio note when you submit. Photos welcome but not necessary. We’ll post it as soon as the wi-fi fairies allow.

If you are wondering what is open and what is claimed, check out the comments section of these blog postings:




The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy

February 10, 2014 § 52 Comments

Form Rejection Decoder Thingy

For an Easy-to-Read Version
Use the PDF link in the Blog Post

A helpful blog entry from Brevity’s managing editor Sarah Einstein. Sarah will be talking about rejection, acceptance, and writing as part of the panel “Getting Short-Form Nonfiction to Readers: A Publication Panel” on the Friday morning of AWP Seattle:

Every couple of weeks, a writer-friend sends me an email or a Facebook message with the text of a rejection letter in it, asking me to help them decode it. Most often, they want me to help them figure out how close they got to being published, which is an impossible task. I couldn’t even tell you that if it was a submission to Brevity… ultimately, either we took the piece or we didn’t. We do have tiered rejection letters. If you got our “close but not cigar” rejection, you should probably turn around and submit that piece to five other places right away because we thought pretty hard about taking it. But if you get our standard rejection, that doesn’t mean you weren’t close. It might mean that we really liked it, but that we had recently published one that seemed too similar for us to be ready for another in the same vein. It might mean that we really liked it, but we could already tell from other choices we had made that it wasn’t going to fit well into this issue. It might mean that it is perfect for PANK / Diagram / Quarter After Eight but just not perfect for Brevity. The list of things it might mean is infinite. And the truth is, there is no way for you–the author–to know. We don’t have time to write to each author and explain why we didn’t take a piece. I wish we did. I really do. I face the same issues with my own work.

And, really, we all know that you can’t actually get any real information out of a form rejection letter. We know that the fact that it took four months to hear back from a journal might mean they spent a long time considering the work and it got pretty close, but it also might mean someone at the journal got sick/married/arrested and just fell behind. That journals don’t have secret codes embedded into the form emails that explain how to become the next Jill Talbot or Anna March. But that doesn’t stop us from looking for clues that aren’t there.

So, writer-friends, I’m giving you this little present. It’s a Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy (PDF link here). Surely you remember these from elementary school, when you probably called them “Cootie Catchers.” Just pick a color, pick a number, and the FRLDT will give you a perfectly possible reason that your piece was not selected for publication. Sure, the reasons it will offer you are all on the sunny side of things. It won’t ever tell you, for instance, that the editors thought your narrative was great but prose was stiff. Or the other way ’round. But since all you got was a form rejection, let’s just assume that–as is far more often the case than writers believe–the reason your piece was rejected does have everything to do with the needs of the journal and nothing to do with your work.

That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to take a second pass at revision before you send it out again. Because you always want your work to be your best.

AWP Guest Bloggers Sought (Saturday’s Panels)

February 6, 2014 § 17 Comments

pikeOkay, if you’ve read the prior two posts, you know what’s up, and it involves fish being tossed back and forth at Pike Place Market. Also, AWP nonfiction panels.

Below you will find Saturday’s panels focusing on nonfiction.  If you want to claim one, feel free to do so in the comments section.  (Sometimes two people blog report on the same panel, and that’s okay too.  Three is probably too many, though.)

We are looking for two things: (1) gleaned information that might be useful or interesting to folks who can’t make the Seattle conference, and (2) Just fun times.  You can blog about the drunk poet in the elevator if you want to and can make it interesting.  Or go kiss a baby seal.  Reports from the Bookfair are good too.

[Those who volunteer; When your blog post is ready, e-mail to to brevitymag@gmail.comAbout 500 words is best.  If you want a reminder, you can send an e-mail now to the same address as well as posting below and we'll remind you in two weeks, but if you want to just keep track yourself, that's fine too.  Please include a two or three sentence bio note when you submit.]

chum_colorsSo here is Saturday’s schedule:

Saturday, March First.

Ten-thirty a.m. to Eleven-forty-five a.m.

S136. Resisting Rise, Fall, Resolve: Strategies for the Anti-Memoir.
(Elizabeth Kadetsky, Robin Romm, David MacLean, Joanna Smth Rakoff, Liz Scarboro) Redwood Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor.
Traditional memoir suggests a journey from tragedy to redemption with a sane narrator who provides a handrail through chaos. This panel discusses possibilities for disrupting the classic rise-fall arc of the confession, exploring ways to rough up the memoir genre. Authors can create danger through form: 2nd and 3rd person, graphics and text/image hybrid, novelization, fractured narrative, scrambled chronology, meta-textual deconstruction, or, simply, falling deeper and deeper as narrative arc.

S158. “Doubt is my Revelation”: Creative Nonfiction On Religion.
(Jeff Sharlet, Nathan Schneider, Kaya Oakes, Brook Wilensky-Lanford)
Room LL5, Western New England MFA Annex, Lower Level.
Philip Lopate has written that the essay as a form is all about doubt. But what if you’re an essayist obsessed with religion? How does a skeptic engage with devout subjects? Or alternately, how does a writer of faith reach across the divide to unbelievers? Editors of and contributors to Killing the Buddha, an online literary magazine specializing in “first person dispatches from the margins of faith,” share their experiences and discuss the essential role of doubt in writing about faith.

S185. Telling it All: Boundaries in Creative Nonfiction.
(Allen Gee, Ann McCutchan, Peter Selgin, Margaret Macinnis, Emily Fox Gordon)
Room 613/614, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6.
Five writers will read brief excerpts and explain why this published work contains their most personally revealing material. What will follow is a discussion about what each writer won’t write about and why. Our panel will attempt to answer these questions: While we often seek to maintain or nurture a sense of privacy for ourselves, what are the writer’s obligations? Does one’s art trump any and all ethical considerations? Should we be mindful of secrets, or is nothing sacred anymore?

One-thirty p.m. to Two-forty-five p.m.

S207. What about God? Memoirists Discuss Faith and Writing.
(Krista Bremer, Cheryl Strayed, Sara Miles, Emily Rapp, G. Willow Wilson)
Room 602/603, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6.
Faith is understood to be the opposite of the intellect, and religion to be at odds with literature, which thrives on ambiguity. But if life is a journey, then memoir is travel writing. The author is no tourist seeking souvenirs; she’s a pilgrim who wanders the wilderness of memory in search of meaning. How do an author’s beliefs shape her quest, both her process and her finished work? Five memoirists will discuss spirituality and writing and explore how their beliefs shape their work.

S225. The Naked I: Nonfiction’s Exposed Voice.
(Barrie Jean Borich, Ira Sukrungruang, Margot Singer, Dinah Lenney, Judith Kitchen)
Room 304, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3.
Authentic voice. Inner voice. Essayistic voice. Unmasked voice. However we describe the sound and texture of that slip-slide between our actual lives and the versions of ourselves we create for the page, this palpable human presence is what distinguishes creative nonfiction from the genres. This panel of nonfiction writers will discuss the intimacy, intellect, and identity of this naked I—part actuality, part construction, always individual, and wholly what the genre is all about.

S226. Writing Feminism in Creative Nonfiction.
(Sarah Lenz, Marcia Aldrich, Kristen Iversen, Sonja Livingston, Mary Kay McBrayer)
Room 305, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3.
Five women writers speak about how feminism influences their CNF writing. In our post-feminism era how do women memoirists and journalists fit in? What effect does feminism have on the MFA program from the professors’ and students’ viewpoint? Who are the feminists CNF writers can look to these days? Are Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan still relevant? Where does feminism intersect with publishing? How helpful is the VIDA count in raising awareness to these issues?

Three o’clock p.m. to Four-fifteen p.m.

S230. Lightening Up the Dark: The Role of Humor in Memoir.
(Mimi Schwartz, Joe Mackall, Phillip Lopate, Suzanne Greenberg, Daniel Stolar)
Willow Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor.
Too often we see our lives as simply funny or sad and write in that single mode, limiting the emotional complexity of our narratives. Humor is a powerful tool for changing that—and no need to be Jon Stewart to use it effectively. Our panel of five explores how humor works for them as writers and teachers of memoir and essay. We address how humor deepens perspective, how it seduces readers to our side, and how, by marrying dark material with humor, we create a powerful tension between the two.

S240. Planning for Surprise: Teaching the Unexpected in Personal Narrative.
(Patrick Madden, Michael Steinberg, Renee D’Aoust, Thomas Larson, Desirae Matherly)
Room 606, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6.
This panel focuses on the vital role that surprise, serendipity, and experimentation play in writing and teaching personal narratives. We’ll explore how we and writers utilize the surprises that arise while drafting and, in turn, how we teach these strategies to graduates and undergraduates. In place of relying on preset stories and structures, we’ll offer examples designed to help nonfiction writers learn to trust their instincts and intuitions as they compose their personal narratives.

S247. Modernism and the Lyric Essay.
(Joey Franklin, Dinty W. Moore, Mary Cappello, David Shields, Lia Purpura)
Room 615/616/617, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6.
What can Joyce, Woolf, Pound, Eliot, and modernists teach us about the poetics of the lyric essay? And can answering such a question help the lyric essay find its aesthetic roots? Join us as we discuss how modernist preoccupations with impressionism, self-consciousness, fragmentation, and free association (among things) can not only inform the way we read, write, and teach lyric essays, but can also help us place this popular genre in the larger tradition of western poetics.

Four-thirty p.m. to Five-forty-five p.m.

S264. The Power of Perspective: Teaching Memoir and Creating Community Among Older Writers.
(Michelle Seaton, Judah Leblang, Kerrie Kemperman, Kathryn Kay)
Room 3B, Washington State Convention Center, Level 3.
Many of the tens of millions of older Baby Boomers in this country yearn for quality creative writing instruction. In Boston, Grub Street has created a program to teach memoir to retirees and has published four anthologies of their work. In this panel, instructors and administrators will discuss how the program evolved, its teaching and workshop philosophy, and how it handles the publishing process, so that communities can reach this vital but underserved population.

S270. Risking More Than Your Own Story: The Challenges of Researching and Writing Others’ Lives.
(Gregory Martin, Debra Gwartney, Mark Sundeen, Jennifer Sinor)
Room 606, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6.
Panelists consider the ethical questions that arise when we bring others—both living and dead—into our literary nonfiction. What is a writer’s responsibility to his or her subject? What are the possibilities for harm, inaccuracy, or success? In addition, the apparent ease of gathering information through modern technology can make it difficult to know where and how to begin. These writers will give both practical advice and critical reflection on the challenges of writing about others.

S280. Beyond the Gild: Lyric Imperatives in the Personal Essay.
(Robert Root, Kathryn Winograd, Laura Julier, Steve Harvey, Jocelyn Bartkevicius)
Room LL5, Western New England MFA Annex, Lower Level.
Personal and lyric essays are sometimes perceived as antithetical by novice writers in creative nonfiction, the personal essay conscripted to linear narrative and the lyric essay to experimental poetics. The personal essayist may embrace poetic language, yet leave untapped elements such as metaphor, symbol, deep image, and associative logic. Writers, mentors, and editors discuss how to discover these “doorways” to broaden and deepen the revelatory journey into self and world.

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