The Nonfiction Conversation

January 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

Former Brevity contributor Sean Finucane Toner calls our attention to Referential Magazine:

Image by Steph Skardal via Flickr Creative Commons

Image by Steph Skardal via Flickr Creative Commons

Referential Magazine  is now open to submissions of literary nonfiction, fiction and poetry. With just two issues under our new editors, our magazine has published literary luminaries such as Rebecca McClanahan, Thomas E. Kennedy, Adriana Paramo, Lee K. Abbott, Lynn Kanter, Suzanne Farrell Smith, Phillip Sterling, Madeline Tiger, Anne Harding Woodworth, Thomas Lynch and many others. We desire a balance of heart and intellect, want work that is less ink, more blood.’s Catherine Sustana reports in her Eight Innovative Online Magazines: “Referential Magazine calls itself ‘a celebration of the interconnectedness of the written word,’ and reading it is not quite like reading anything else I’ve encountered on the web. Some of the pieces are previously unpublished; others are reprints. Most pieces are followed by a reference to at least one other work — one that inspired it or one that resonates with it (though sometimes a piece is just followed by a statement from the author). The references sometimes lead to other works on the Referential Magazine site, but often, they lead to other sites. The effect is to put literary works in conversation with each other, creating a sense of context and community rather than the isolation so often created by the abundant material available on the internet.”

Seven Essays I Meet in My Literary Heaven

January 21, 2014 § 13 Comments

heavenA guest post from Jennifer Niesslein, founder of Full Grown People, the essay magazine:

1.     The Essay that Manages to Be Funny, Poignant, and Thought-Provoking All at the Same Time. I think I like this kind of essay because it most closely mimics real life: the humor and the pathos and the mysteries of being human. Shaun Anzaldua and Jody Mace are fabulous at this, and I don’t why they’re not household names.

2.     The Essay that Takes Me Someplace. Listen, I live a sheltered life. I’ve been out of the country once and that was to Toronto for a conference. (The black squirrels weirded me out.) My favorite place is home, where my robe is waiting. So when I come across an essay that transports me to Montana, or Ireland, or Italy in a way that feels like the writer is carrying me in her pocket? I’m in.

3.     The Essay that Sticks the Landing. I hate an everything-is-perfect-now ending, but those endings (like Jill Talbot’s or Amber Stevens’s) that take the momentum that the writer has built and actually bring it to a lip-pressing crescendo make me swoon. Isn’t that the point of an essay? To haunt the reader just a little?

4.     The Essay that Teaches Me Something. What do I know about Jewish remembrance traditions or making paper? Nothing. (See “sheltered life,” above.) As William Bradley so eloquently wrote about, these essays put me in the skin of someone I’m not, and they increase my empathy.

5.     The Essay that Makes Me Rethink My Attitude Entirely. And oh, no, I’m not talking about those essays that are basically click-bait. I’m talking essays like Kim Kankiewicz’s that completely changed my thinking about beauty, from a way to stand out to a way to fit in.

6.     The Essay that I Know Someone Will Read and Be Thankful that It Came to Him or Her at This Moment. This is the most very gratifying part of my job—running something that I know will make someone say, “Oh, holy hell, YES!” Not every essay will hit a nerve with every reader, but there is something magical when a reader finds an essay that tackles the same circumstances he finds himself in and, at least for a moment, his loneliness disappears.

7.     The Essay that Illuminates Naked Yearning. These pieces may force writers to reveal something ugly about themselves, but we all have something ugly in us, and there’s a relief that comes from recognizing it in an essay. Every good essay, though, mitigates that ugliness by revealing a yearning. Jennifer Maher yearns for a baby.Sonya Huber yearns for her partner to be cleaved from his addiction. Eric Williamson yearns for a more peaceful marriage. All of us—writer and reader—can yearn and yearn and yearn, but that doesn’t always mean we get what we want. In an essay, we get to be understood.

A Sweet Birthday

November 12, 2013 § Leave a comment


SWEET: A Literary Confection is entering its sixth year and the folks at Brevity are plenty pleased to wish a happy, productive birthday to one of our favorite online counterparts. Under the direction of co-founders Ira Sukrungruang, Katherine Riegel, and K.C. Wolfe, SWEET has from the start offered consistent high quality literary energy food. In this guest post, SWEET staffer Christine M. Lasek interviews the magazine’s co-founder Ira Sukrungruang:

SWEET is truly a “labor of love” (i.e., a lot of hard work that you’re not paid for).  How were you inspired to start this magazine, and how has your concept of the publication changed since its 2007 inception?

When did Sweet start? Sweet started in a car in upstate New York, on a county road, in the middle of a blizzard, the snow like a blanket over the windshield. Katie Riegel and I were driving home and I said, “Let’s edit a magazine. Let’s get crazy.” And it was crazy, wasn’t it? To start another literary journal in a world filled with literary journals? But as Ted Kooser said, what’s the harm of another poet in the world? What’s the harm of having more poems and essays in our lives? What’s the harm in littering the world with literature?

Six years later, here we are. And the biggest surprise for Katie and KC Wolfe–the founding editors—and I is how we still retain this excitement of editing a magazine. We love it. We all teach, we all have busy lives, and so editing Sweet is our break from our lives. It’s six years, and we keep growing, keep falling in love with everything we publish. Sweet is our way of giving back to the literary community, the reading and writing life.


Ira Sukrungruang

Even though SWEET doesn’t publish “themed” issues, it is often the case that the work in each issue has similar thematic threads.  Can you talk about this generally, and speak specifically about issue 6.1, which has the theme of “impressions”? 

There are a lot of ways of defining impressions. The impressions we leave on others. The impressions that we leave on the world. An impression is a way of defining who we are, and how we are viewed. The work in Sweet 6.1, especially the essays, speak to this need of understanding the impressions we make in this life.

From 36A: “…I couldn’t be a cheerleader. I had no bust. I was a Jew.”

From Dream Child: “I was alone in this dark apartment. My daughter, my Little Lamb, was nothing; less than nothing, and dreams.”

From Freight: “Over time more stories will entwine themselves in these vines and flowers…I still need to be the keeper of memory, need to throw light on the freight of yesterday.”

From The Beginning and the End: “She sucks a breath into liquid lungs, and her body falls into itself again.”

From Buddhism 101: “But I believed if I could just let go of my insistence on the solidness of myself, if I could just see things as fluid and interconnected, if I could tap into the eternal clarity of this, in the gleaming northern star above the Bodhi tree, in the stillness of my inhalations and exhalations, I could know bliss. I could never know pain. “

If anything, impression made.

Do you have a favorite among the 16 issues you have published?

I keep saying this–and this by no means is me avoiding the question–but I keep saying that the newest issue is the best issue we’ve published. I’m swept away by the poems and essays; all of them we’ve had the honor to publish over the years have engrained themselves into my body, my being, a metaphorical tattoo. That, to me, is the point of good literature. That it awakens us. That it breaks us in all the right places. That it elevates our understanding of our place in the world. I live with Geoff Schmidt’s essay “Otis and Jake” in my bones. Ruth Awad’s piece, “In the Skin,” is in my skin. I’m winged away by the swifts in Amy Monticello’s “Chimney Swifts.” I am made aware of my body, as Wendy Rawlings is in her essay “36A.”

Tell me about SWEET’s publishing arm, SWEET Publications, including any projects that are on the horizon. 

Why stop at a magazine? I’m a dreamer. My other editors have to sometimes reel me back in. But this was something we all wanted to do. We wanted to publish books. Books by authors who did not have books. Books by contributors of the magazine. Books that were beautiful to touch, to hold. We wanted readers to not only take pleasure in the word, but in the product. The book was going to be art in and of itself. Sweet is blessed with staff members who are also artists like RC Stephens, Gloria Muñoz, and the head of Sweet Publications, Jim Miller. We wanted to create limited edition handmade books, and have those books available in e-format or PDFs. The designers of the books read and work closely with the authors. We have three books so far. Amy Monticello’s Close Quarters, Megan Gannon’s The Witch’s Index, and Donna Steiner’s Elements. We are working on a compilation of poetry published in Sweet in the last five years. Have I mentioned we love what we do?

What advice do you have for aspiring poets and essayists that hope to be counted among SWEET’s authors?  What about for writers who hope to start their own literary magazine some day?

To writers: Send. Send again. Send better. Believe.

To future editors: Do it because you love it. Do it because you want to bring the world a gift of words.


Ira Sukrungruang is an Associate Professor of Creative Nonfiction at the University of South Florida.  He is a Chicago born Thai-American whose cultural identity often features prominently in his work.  His memoir, Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy, was published in 2010, and his book of poetry, In Thailand it is Night, was winner of the first Anita Claire Scharf Award.

Christine M. Lasek teaches creative and technical writing at the University of South Florida.  She also serves as the Public Relations Officer for SWEET: A Literary Confection.  Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Pearl Literary Magazine, Tampa Review Online, the Coal City Review, and elsewhere.


Read Ducks

September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Rouenduck_beetonRedux, the online journal of previously published work, is accepting submissions of fiction/poetry/essays during its annual open reading period: September 10 to October 15.  Here is what they have to say about their wishes:

We’re looking for literary work of high quality that has been previously published in a print journal but that is not available elsewhere on the internet.  Our mission is to bring deserving work to a new, online audience.  Preference will be given to older pieces (i.e. published before 2010).

 No novel excerpts, poems that appear in chapbooks, or pieces published in anthologies…even if these books are presently out-of-print.
Please read our guidelines for important submission information.  If your work is accepted, you will also be asked to write a short “story behind the piece” essay a la the Best American series.
Authors we’ve published in our first two years include Margot Livesey, Sandra Beasley, Robin Black, R.T. Smith, Michelle Boisseau, Kelle Groom, Erica Dawson, Walter Cummins, and C.M. Mayo.

2013 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

August 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

_68soldierboyFrom the fine folks at Gulf Coast:

Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2013 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. The contest is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will also appear in issue 26.2, due out in April 2014, and all entries will be considered for paid publication on our website as Online Exclusives. All entrants will receive a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast with their contest fee.

This year’s contest will be judged by Robert Coover. Coover’s first novel, The Origin of the Brunists, won the 1966 William Faulkner Award. His other works include the collection of short fiction, Pricksongs and Descants, a collection of plays, A Theological Position, and such novels as The Public BurningSpanking the Maid,Gerald’s PartyPinocchio in VeniceJohn’s WifeGhost Town, and Briar Rose. His latest honor is the Dugannon Foundation’s REA award for his lifetime contribution to the short story.

We will accept submissions both via our online submissions manager and via postal mail. Entrants may submit up to three pieces with each entry fee. Entrants may submit more than once, but each new entry of three pieces must be accompanied by a separate entry fee.


Sol: English Writing in Mexico

July 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

2013-02-12 11.09.34“Sol: English Writing in Mexico,” an online literary magazine, seeks literary nonfiction submissions. Next deadline: September 1, 2013. We also publish fiction and poetry, but are especially looking for quality literary nonfiction. We have just published a book of selections from the first three years of the online magazine “SOL English Writing in Mexico” which is available on Amazon. All of the profits from the readings and book sales generated by Sol go to at-risk Mexican youth through the local chapter of PEN International. For submission guidelines and to see the magazine


The Big Roundtable: Long-Form Narrative Journalism

July 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

An announcement from the good folks at the Big Roundtable:

algrt_webOur aim is to connect writers and readers of ambitious narrative journalism by experimenting with new ways of finding, vetting, editing and distributing those stories.

Think of us as Kickstarter for Writers. And we are open for submissions.

If you have a story that cannot seem to find a home in traditional outlets — too long for a magazine, too short for a book? — consider sending it our way. While we cannot promise publication, we can assure you of a thoughtful read, one that turns the traditional editor-as-gatekeeper-and-tastemaker model on its head.

Instead, we give our members a voice in determining whether an audience exists for a story. Authors of pieces that appear on our site earn 90 percent of the sales revenue.

In three weeks since its launch The Big Roundtable has already formed partnerships with and, which have expanded our reach considerably.

Our goal is to make writers happy. And that begins by treating them with the respect and courtesy they are due for taking the risks that all writers must.

If you’d like to learn more about The Big Roundtable, visit the site at

We looking forward to hearing from you — and reading your stories.

Seneca Review Calls for Hybrid Projects and Outliers

July 5, 2013 § 1 Comment

balloonBeyond the lyric essay. 
Beyond the prose poem.
Beyond just words.
Beyond just images.

Beyond Category.

Seneca Review is now accepting submissions for its Beyond Category Special Issue. The issue will be a print-and-online cyborg, featuring a perfect-bound portion of the issue complemented by an online, digital portion. The hybrid format allows for a broad range of digital and analog projects.  

What we like:

Experimental typography, splicings, documentary poetics, visual-textual hybrids, multimedia essays, collage, live coding, new media, old media with new applications, audio, video, bio-art, book arts, etc.

Who we like:

Susan Howe, Jen Bervin, Anne Carson, Mary Ruefle, Vito Acconci, Shelley Jackson, Amaranth Borsuk & Brad Bouse, Ben Van Dyke, Jenny Holzer, Caroline Bergvall, John Cayley, and so forth.

Send us outliers, anachronisms and protochronisms, oddball experiments — anything that resists a single genre or medium. If in doubt, send it!

The special issue will come out in Jan 2014.

Submission Deadline: Oct 31, 2013
Email for more info.

Regrets, We’ve Had a Few, But then Again…

June 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

dentalhygiene2For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about mistakes—major or minor, tragic or serendipitous, funny or painful. We’re looking for stories about poor decisions, missteps, or miscalculations; we want to read about embarrassing boo-boos, dangerous misjudgments, or fortuitous faux pas in well-crafted stories that explore the nature and outcomes of human fallibility.

Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1000 for Best Essay & $500 for runner-up.

Guidelines: Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words.

Submission guidelines can be found here.

Black Warrior Prizes in Three Genres

April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

black warrior bass

Prize-Winning Bass Caught on Black Warrior River

The Ninth Annual Black Warrior Review Contest is underway.

Guest Judges for 2013 are

Brian Evenson (Fiction)

Jenny Boully (Nonfiction)

Kate Durbin  (Poetry)

To Submit your Work, or for more details and guidelines, please visit:

Winners in each genre will receive $1,000 and publication in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue. Finalists in each category will receive notation in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue and are also considered for publication.

Reading Fee is $15 per short story (up to 7000 words), $15 per nonfiction piece (up to 7000 words), and $15 per group of up to 3 poems.

All contestants will also receive a complimentary one-year subscription.

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