February 7, 2013 § 2 Comments
Over at the Journal, Silas Hansen conducts an excellent brief interview with Brevity favorite Brenda Miller, including this nifty new definition of the flash:
I do a lot of my writing in timed segments in groups, and so that is why much of my work lately is coming out in short bursts that seem self-contained. It feels like a flash piece when I can come around full circle pretty quickly with an image that “rings the bell” at the end. I think flash nonfiction acts as a microcosm of experience, and as such it needs to contain all the elements of that experience, but it concentrates them. When I think of “concentrate” I think of those cans of frozen orange juice—“just add water.” If one were to “just add water” to a short-short essay, an entire memoir should gush forth.
August 29, 2011 § 16 Comments
An article from the Associated Press exploring the question of whether a former law clerk must “adhere to the same ethical and legal obligations as an attorney,” what constitutes confidentiality, and further, how these issues apply to a work of creative nonfiction published in the Bellingham Review. Brevity author and respected teacher Brenda Miller notes the dilemma faced by small magazines when embroiled in such issues:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans law office specializing in death penalty cases is suing a former summer intern who wrote an essay about her work at the nonprofit group, accusing her of disclosing confidential information and undermining clients’ defenses.
The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center is seeking a court order blocking Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich from publishing any privileged information she obtained while working as a law clerk for the center for several weeks in 2003.
Her lawyer says she is writing a book that is part memoir and “part literary journalism” about the prosecution of Ricky Langley, one of the center’s clients. Langley, a sex offender, was convicted of strangling a 6-year-old boy to death near Lake Charles in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
Marzano-Lesnevich, a Harvard Law School graduate who is pursuing a writing career instead of practicing law, wrote an essay on the same subject that was published by the Bellingham Review. The literary journal, based in Bellingham, Wash., removed the piece from its website after the center complained.
Brenda Miller, editor-in-chief of the Bellingham Review, said in an email that Marzano-Lesnevich’s essay is a “wonderful piece of creative nonfiction” that the journal was proud to publish last year. Although the edition in which the essay appeared is still for sale, Miller said the Bellingham Review complied with the center’s demand to remove the piece from its website.
“We are a small journal, with a mostly volunteer staff running the journal on a shoestring, and so could not afford the time or resources to get involved in a legal process,” Miller wrote.
November 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
Patrick Madden and his team of hooligans (including Michael Martone) staged a romp of a game show at last week’s NonfictioNow Conference in Iowa City.
Mere words cannot express the joy of watching essayists Ned Stuckey-French, David Lazar, and Brenda Miller diaper stuffed animals in the Japanese game show portion of the evening.
Or the goofiness of watching the Lopates face off against the Gutkinds in Family Feud.
But pictures can convey the madness, so GO HERE AND SEE THE ACTION.
Or, if you’d rather, change a diaper and get a job.
September 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
Brenda is also one of our favorite essayists, and she writes about burnt bread (and dogs, and love) in the latest Sweet. Here’s just a taste:
And even later, when I lived with one man and then another and then another, toast could allay even the most bitter arguments. When I lived with Francisco in our mildewed canvas tent at the edge of Lake Powell, we made toast on the iron skillet, a process that required patience and watchfulness and diligence. We spread it with cheap margarine, ate it in silence in the early morning cold. When I lived with Seth at Orr Springs, we made toast on a griddle pan, from loaves we made ourselves, big heavy wheat bread always a little too moist in the middle, studded with hard specks of millet. Toasting made it better, and we spread the slices with homemade apricot jam, made it something to linger over in the mornings before all the chores—wood to be chopped, leaks to be fixed, weeds to be plucked—crowded in to oppress us.
When I lived with Keith, we toasted bread at all hours of the day as we both wrote in our rooms in that little house in Green Lake. He would say, in passing, this is my life! and sometimes this cry meant: “I can’t believe my good fortune, eating toast with you in this house on the hill!,” and sometimes, if the writing weren’t going so well, it meant: “I can’t believe this is what my life has come to, eating toast with you in this house on the hill.” But in any case, we enjoyed the toast, made with grainy, slightly sweet bread bought at the co-op down the road. Eating toast made everything good enough, for a little while at least.
Finish the whole plate of toast right here Sweet – A Literary Confection of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction.
November 4, 2009 § 1 Comment
You can imagine our excitement when Brenda Miller, author of so many beautiful Brevity essays and craft pieces (see here and here and here and here) dropped by the Brevity corporate offices last week as part of her visit to Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing Program. Brenda gave a wonderful reading from her newest collection, Blessing of the Animals.
Just today, we ran across a fine interview with Brenda in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Q: How much distance do you need from a topic to write elegantly and clearly about it?
A: It depends. For certain things, I still don’t have enough distance, even though the events may have happened thirty years ago. For others, I write about them as they’re happening. In either case, I don’t think it’s the literal time, but the mind’s perspective on the topic or event that creates enough breathing room for something literary to happen on the page. Also: form. If you find the right form, or voice, for a piece, it can provide just the “container” you need for whatever the topic might be. And some of my essays span quite a bit of time; so I might start off by writing about an image from my childhood, which leads me to something quite close in the present day; once I’m on that train I’m not going to jump off.
You can read the full interview here.
September 29, 2009 § 5 Comments
Brenda Miller reveals the roots of her Brevity essay “Swerve,” and offers us a writing prompt along the way:
This little essay is a testament to many things: to the power of friendship, the efficacy of assignments, the resonance of small detail, and trust in one’s own intuition.
Friendship: It’s mid-autumn, and I go to a bookstore café to meet with two women I don’t know very well yet. We’d met through a service-learning program at the university, discovered we all want more writing time, more excuses for writing. So Kim, Marion, and I gather in this café—where the service is surly and spotty—at the table next to the poetry bookshelf. This lone bookshelf is hidden away here on the top floor, almost as an afterthought, poetry relegated to the corner where it takes some effort to find it.
We’re not sure how to begin. We sip our lattes, gossip about school. My eyes wander toward the poetry bookshelf, and my hand reaches out to grab a book, Late Wife, by Claudia Emerson. I’ve heard about this book, I say. Do you want to read it together?
Assignment: So we do. And we come back together the following week, excited by her “Divorce Epistles,” by the way Emerson is able to return to the past, to pain, to loss, through directly addressing the ex-husband. We all have something in our past to address, some complexity that hasn’t been easily resolved, perhaps never will be. So we give each other an assignment. Write an apology, we say, to someone in your past. An “apology epistle.” I’m not sure why we come up with apology. It’s just the first thing to come to mind.
Detail: I sit down at home and write the first words, I’m sorry… And immediately the image of that piece of wood in the road comes into my mind. It doesn’t arrive with a blare and a bang; it just emerges there in my brain, crystal clear, as if it had been waiting all this time for me to blink it into focus. I’m sorry about that time I ran over a piece of wood in the road. I haven’t been thinking about my ex-boyfriend, a man I knew thirty years ago, a relationship that had been fraught with alcoholism and emotional abuse. I had been a young woman, very young, still a child. And so, with the image of this small piece of wood, this roadside debris, the entire relationship comes back full force, everything that had transpired between us distilled into the essence of that road trip across the desert. The essay comes out of me in one piece, in about thirty minutes, one image leading to the next.
Intuition: I bring the piece, three copies, to our meeting the following week. We’re all a little nervous, so we spend most of our time gossiping before turning to the pages in our hands. I read “Swerve” aloud, and as I’m reading I see what I’ve really written. I didn’t know it until I shared it with them; I had just been following that piece of wood. But now I see that while I truly was sorry about running over it, I was really sorry for subjecting my young self to such a harsh and terrifying experience. And behind it all was the fact that I had gotten into the relationship in the first place out of a kind of penance: guilt over something that had happened to me just before I met him. So the entire time was tied up with apology, with truly being sorry for so many things.
I could never have written the essay deliberately, trying to work with all those complex emotions head-on. I simply had to trust in that piece of wood. The second paragraph came out in one long line, because I couldn’t risk stopping: I had to keep going to see where we would all end up. I had to let my intuition guide me to that dangerous place, knowing I’d be safe in the company of newfound friends.
September 12, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Our Fall 2009 Issue is ready for your inspection, kind reader.
Brevity 31 offers work from Sherman Alexie, Lee Martin, Brenda Miller, Ron Arias, Amy Lee Scott, Rebecca Frost, Ann Claycomb, Jehanne Dubrow, Scott Moncrieff, and April Monroe. Some of these folks you’ve no doubt read elsewhere, others have graced our pages in the past, and at least one is publishing for her first time. That’s the sort of mix that makes us happy here in the Brevity corporate towers.
Also, strong new Craft Essays from Stephen Corey, Dinah Lenney, Jennifer Culkin, and Towles Kintz, and Book Reviews from J. Luise, Stephanie Susnjara, and Dinty W. Moore. And also, ten (count ‘em, ten) wonderful photographs from Tricia Louvar.
February 1, 2009 § 1 Comment
So yes, that makes us fans, and we are of course happy to hear the news that Brenda’s newest book, Blessing of the Animals, has just been released.
Says author Kim Barnes: “Brenda Miller writes with such extraordinary grace and intimacy that, despite our weariness and fears, we find ourselves falling in love with the world all over again…”
Congratulations to Brenda, and to anyone lucky enough to read her work.
January 22, 2009 § 2 Comments
BREVITY, the journal of concise nonfiction, launches the 29th issue today, bringing you the Big Bad Wolf, a glass eyeball, Parisian lingerie, a pair of stolen sneakers, an orphaned doe, and, possibly, a visitor from another planet. Maybe it’s just the snow playing tricks on our eyes, but each of these pieces seems to ask the same thing: “Did I see what I think I saw?” Bundle up and get warm by the intense fire of such talents as Lance Larsen, David Bradley, Tim Elhajj, John Bresland, Diane Seuss, Joe Bonomo, Kyle Minor, Laura Sewell Matter, Elizabeth Westmark, and Bryan Fry. Also, new Craft Essays from Brenda Miller and Lisa Knopp, and Book Reviews from Mary Richert, Richard Gilbert, and Stephanie Susnjara.