Untangling Environmental Stories

September 20, 2019 § 1 Comment

Ana Maria Spagna Craft PhotoIn the craft essay from our new issue, Ana Maria Spagna explains how the complicated threads of environmental stories can be untangled by embracing contradictions. She acknowledges that tackling these vital stories is a challenge and hopes her contradictory lessons will compel more creative writers to explore this theme.

Here’s an excerpt:

So often what draws me to environmental stories is the sheer energy of people fighting on the fringes, exploring solutions, working with shovels and saws, with computers and maps, with megaphones and musical instruments. Super heroes proliferate on the big screen, in the realm of so-called make-believe. They also surround us every day: sheep shearers, oyster farmers, citizen scientists, teachers, students, writers. Always writers.

Read the rest in our latest issue.


Natalie Lima: Snowbound and Longing

September 19, 2019 § Leave a comment

natalie_limaIn Brevity’s September 2019 issue, Natalie Lima ventures from Florida to Chicago for college, where she struggles to fit in and longs for the first sight of snow. Here’s an excerpt from Lima’s flash essay:

You don’t cry because you’ve earned this. Because you’re poor, and you’re Latin, and your dad ran off with the neighbor, yet you still killed it on the SAT—you are clearly destined for greatness. You don’t cry because you are dying to leave your barrio, dying to leave that couch you sleep on. Because even though it’s scary, you know this fancy school is where you were always meant to be.

Read the rest of Lima’s stunning essay in our September 2019 issue.

Writing What Doesn’t Belong Only to You

September 19, 2019 § 1 Comment

Haley Swanson Photog Credit Jaimie JohnsonIn the Craft Essay section of Brevity’s just-released September 2019 issue, Haley Swanson discusses how acknowledging emotional commonalities between the writer and reader is “the key to writing about what doesn’t belong only to you.” Here’s an excerpt from Swanson’s essay:

Knowing other people have lived iterations of your experience, undergone versions of the same emotions, requires a vulnerability impossible to access in the moment. After the moment passes, when it’s time for reflection, consider letting that knowledge—someone felt this before you, someone will feel this after you, someone else is feeling it now—fill the gap an essay is sometimes believed to close. Then, the writing might come.

Read the full essay in Brevity’s new issue.

“Experiences of Disability” – A Brevity Special Issue

September 18, 2019 § 11 Comments


Esmé Weijun Wang

Brevity is excited to announce an upcoming special issue, “Experiences of Disability,” to be published in September 2020 and featuring anchor author Esmé Weijun Wang. The submission period will begin on October 1, 2019.

We invite brief nonfiction submissions that consider all aspects of illness and disability: what it is, what it means, how our understanding of disability is changing. We want essays that explore how disability is learned during childhood, lived over the entire course of a life, and how our changing understanding of disability shapes the way we experience ourselves and others. We are looking for flash essays (750 words or fewer) that explore the lived experience of illness and disability, as well as encounters with ableism, and that show readers a new way to understand the familiar or give voice to underrepresented experiences.

disability editors

Huber, Brown, Montgomery

The “Experiences of Disability” issue will be guest edited by Keah Brown, Sonya Huber, and Sarah Fawn Montgomery. Brown is a journalist and author of the essay collection The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture & Other Reasons To Fall In Love With Me. Huber is the author of five books, including the essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System. Montgomery is the author of the recent memoir Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir.

Our anchor author, Esmé Weijun Wang, is a novelist and essayist. She is the author of the New York Times-bestselling essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias (2019), for which she won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. Her debut novel, The Border of Paradise, was called a Best Book of 2016 by NPR. She was named by Granta as one of the “Best of Young American Novelists” in 2017 and won the Whiting Award in 2018.

Submissions will be accepted through Brevity’s Submittable page starting on October 1st.Those for whom Submittable is not accessible or for whom the reading fee of $3 would be prohibitive can email their submissions to brevitydislit@gmail.com with the subject formatted as SUBMISSION: (Title) by (Name).

Editors gladly accept donations on the GoFundMe for the Experiences of Disability issue, which has a $1,800 goal for the special Brevity issue. This will pay authors and provide honoraria for anchor authors. Any additional money above this amount will be contributed to Brevity, to help with web-hosting fees and other ongoing expenses.

Brevity’s September Issue: On Going (Back)

September 17, 2019 § Leave a comment


Have you had a chance to visit Brevity’s September 2019 issue, posted yesterday morning?

Among the brilliant essays featured in our newest issue is Jill Talbot’s poignant rumination on how her history of going away and coming back tangles up her past and present. Here is an excerpt from Talbot’s essay:

Night after night, I sit on the end of a faded futon while he sleeps in the next room. I drink until the wine takes me down the back roads of bad choices, where I retrace missed exits, check my rearview for deleted messages and unanswered knocks on the door of my last apartment in Lubbock. In the dark, I stare at the snow-burdened trees outside our windows. Glass after glass after glass.

You can, of course, read the entire essay in our new issue.

The Brief Essay: Brevity’s September 2019 Issue

September 16, 2019 § 1 Comment

aa talbot

Our September 2019 Issue launches this morning, featuring Erica Trabold, Mark Cox, Natalie Lima, Sarah Fawn Montgomery, Reginald Gibbons, Jill Talbot, Joanne Nelson, David Wade, Madhushree Gosh, Steven Harvey, Kat Moore, Leslie Jill Patterson, Sarah Hanner, Greg Bottoms, and Patricia Henley, all brilliant practitioners of the flash essay.

In our Craft Section, Haley Swanson, Kent Meyers, Ana Maria Spagna, and Dinah Lenney explore the universal, the eternal, the environmental, and the “addictive (compulsive, obsessive)” pain of revision.

With photography by Paul Bilger.

Please have a look.

A Ghostwriter’s Acknowledgements Page

September 13, 2019 § 8 Comments

ashley_stimpsonBy Ashley Stimpson

In a few weeks, my first book will be released. It has been a two-and-a-half-year journey to get here, though I could point to any paragraph in the manuscript and tell you when it was drafted and in which room of my house, so indelible was every moment along the way.

This book has changed my life. When people ask what I do for a living, this book has given me permission to say—at last and unequivocally—that I am a writer. This book has given me confidence to propose and take on projects that I would have previously dismissed as beyond my depth. This book has refined my skills as a storyteller and reaffirmed that I am one.

This book will not have my name on it.

My experience as a ghostwriter has been tremendously positive. The anonymity of the project eased my impostor syndrome (I was literally an impostor, so nothing to stress about there) assuaged my worry about its critics (who will never know I wrote it) and provided the financial safety net I needed to make the transition into a full-time freelance career. In fact, the only part of the entire process that filled me with ambivalence was learning the author had set out to work on her acknowledgements page. For the many months of our collaboration, my dominant feeling about the opportunity was one of gratitude—until it was time to say thanks.

I wanted my own acknowledgements page, dammit. Because while I agreed to be a ghost, to disappear into the ether once the writing was finished, the very real people who supported me during the process—the ones who are now pre-ordering on Amazon and sending sweet texts as reviews trickle in—shouldn’t also be relegated to the netherworld of contract’s-end. They should be celebrated and thanked and, well, acknowledged.

Without further ado: this ghostwriter’s acknowledgements page:

–To my ghostmother, who proofread the galley like my name was on it and will remain forever enraged that it is not. You’ve heard of pics-or-it-didn’t-happen? My mom has invented title-page-or-it-doesn’t-count.

–To all those ghostuberdrivers, ghostbartenders, and ghostneighbors who just nodded along politely as I sussed out how to explain what exactly I was working on. (I’m writing a book. Not my own book. I mean, a memoir. Not my memoir—it’s someone else’s memoir. Okay, it’s about this woman…) 

–To my ghostpartner, who read draft after draft and came to care about this story as if it were his—er—my own. Want to find out if someone loves you, like love-loves you? Ask them to read the same pages for the third time this week.

–To the project’s ghostagent, who patiently answered all my tedious questions about the process as she was patiently answering identical questions from her actual client. I’ve learned that agents are bang-up editors, expert schedulers and killer PR reps all rolled up into one impossibly cheerful email.

–And, finally, to my ghostdogs, who were always up for a walk when I couldn’t face another blank page and who love me for the purest reason of all—my dexterity with the peanut butter jar.

–Of course, I would be remiss to not thank the author, who, when she could have killed them, instead adopted so many of my darlings, and who will now be responsible for them in perpetuity.

Mark Twain said “to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” I can vouch for that. My first book will never belong to just me, but my joy (and my gratitude) is exponential.

Ashley Stimpson is a freelance writer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Longreads, Atlas Obscura, Johns Hopkins Magazine and a number of literary journals. Read some of it at www.ashleystimpson.com.

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