Missed Trains and Gender Pains: Nonfiction as a Means to Finding the Self

December 5, 2022 § 5 Comments

By Taylor Grothe

Writing has always been an instrumental tool in learning about who I am as an individual. As a fiction writer, writing nonfiction essays is a new craft for me; I only really began about a year ago, meditating on parenthood, the themes of living through grief and loss, and the potential selves left behind at junctions of an earlier life, like trains missed at their stations.

Through the essay, I gained access to multiple sides of myself, sides that hadn’t seen the light of day or acknowledgement since I was a child. I never imagined that writing nonfiction would help me to solidify an identity I thought had been set—by me, for me, by society at large. Nor did I imagine that the craft would propel me into journalism at Verywell Family, where I write about parenting and gender identity.

My journey began when I enrolled in an MFA program through Fairfield University, signing up for a nonfiction writing course in a fit of pique and panicked desperation to find out who I truly was.

The requirement was at least 15 pages of nonfiction. I barely had that. It was hubris, I knew, to enroll; what did I know about nonfiction? Truthfully, and maybe to my instructor and peers’ chagrin, I threw together the few very short pieces I had, explorations that had only just begun to peek at the truths, eyes squinted, under the well-trodden realm of my most visible identities and environments: children, the home, and the pandemic.

To my surprise, I was asked to write more. To go deeper.

When I was a child, writing in journals was a constant preoccupation, my earliest attempt at nonfiction. My parents never grumbled about the notebooks littering my room, never mind that the ones I started rarely contained more than a few pages of chicken scratch. I’m sure for them my writing time was a welcome relief from the thorny child I was: silence, the sound of a pencil against paper. Scrawls from the heart of my prepubescent anxiety, a way for me to touch upon truths about myself I didn’t know how to name.

One of them that I am rediscovering and naming now is gender.

I was a lovely little girl, but one who liked to run into the woods at the slightest provocation, reveling not only in the tutus, dancing, and makeup of my mother, but the rough and tumble, mud-sprinkled, and more masculine-signaled experiences of the boys I knew. A child who took the gender assigned to me and split it in two.

This duality was true of almost everything in my life then. A good reader, but a failed student. A nervous child, but a confident hyper-fixator with encyclopedic knowledge about words. (My most famous trick in middle school was pulling out a dictionary in the hall to read instead of engaging with the bullies’ taunts.) A pretty girl and a tomboy, these terms not two ends of a binary but the reality of my lived gender experience. I did not want to choose. I wanted to be both and also neither. Not superficially, but as a reality.

Back then, I did not have the word ‘duality,’ nor did I have the word ‘nonbinary’ to describe myself. I might have had ‘fluid,’ but not in the manner one can use it now, to describe the way one relates to gender. Now, as an adult with access to the Internet and its myriad communities, creative and otherwise, I have the words.

Seated at the MFA program’s table, a blank sheet of paper and a timer in front of me, I wrote for the first time about the expectation of gender. Of not-knowing, and deep-knowing, peeling the apple until I got to the flesh and then the core. At its center I found not seeds arranged in the shape of a star, but an embryo, a nascent life I meditated on so infrequently precisely because it was so central to my identity.

Writing about my relationship to gender helped me understand its place in my life. My desire to embody this duality, to be at once everything and nothing—on a page, this tangled issue seemed simpler.

A blank page is a neutral place, existing outside of cultural valence, before its words are introduced to readers. A blank page is safe, but it isn’t the truth. The introduction of one’s true self to others is a political act, an act of agency and courage. 

I won’t say the piece I penned for my MFA workshop was good. I was so nervous to share raw words, raw thoughts to this class of strangers. But my greatest fear, that of rejection and repulsion, was not realized. Instead, my peers and mentor gently suggested there might be other stations to visit, other junctures I had not considered, the first of many movements along a new journey. Writing was the start of undoing something that had prickled me since childhood.

I realized that calling me a “tomboy” had been a way for the adults in my life to elide a cultural obligation to see me as I was, truly and wholly. Now, as a thirty-two-year-old parent of two children, to whom I have a responsibility to raise without the self-hatred I experienced and with all the vocabulary I never had, I find writing about my gender to be an accessible nexus of change. Not only for myself, but also in sharing the gift of fluidity with others.

When I became involved as an assistant managing editor with Brevity, our managing editor floated the idea of a special issue on transgender experience open to those, like me, who are exploring and examining the embodied aspects of their gender identities vis-à-vis writing. I am so excited to say that this idea, only a spark at first, has been nurtured to flame. The Transgender, Gender-Nonconforming, and Gender Expansive issue is now open for submissions, graced by guest editors Krys Malcolm Belc, Silas Hansen, and Lillian-Yvonne Bertram.

But also graced by those like me, like us, who are now finding the words to speak their truths, forgotten things they had long ago folded in the chest of the mind, dusty and overfilled with deeply held secrets. Here, now, a place to cast sunlight, to access the darkest things, and examine them in the lovely, golden rays of truth. To don them, and to step onto the next platform down the line.

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Taylor Grothe is a non-binary, Autistic writer of horror fiction, on submission with a psychological horror novel set in Iceland. Shorts of theirs can be found in Coffin Bell Journal, Shortwave Magazine, and Bag of Bones Press. Taylor is the graduate Assistant Managing Editor of Brevity Magazine and an MFA student at Fairfield University, as well as an Author Mentor Match Round 9 Adult Mentor. They are represented by Larissa Melo Pienkowski of Jill Grinberg Literary Management.

Brevity’s Upcoming Special Issue: Trans* (Transgender, Gender-Nonconforming, and Gender Expansive) Experience

November 16, 2022 § 2 Comments

By Zoë Bossiere

Most people don’t know I’m trans. When strangers look at me, they see my long hair and high cheekbones, hear my soft voice. No one guesses based on how I present now that I grew up with so much ambivalence about my gender.

As a girl who never felt like girl, I lived and presented for much of my childhood as a boy, with a bowl cut and a strong preference for he/him pronouns. When puberty made passing untenable, I began to understand myself as androgynous, neither boy nor girl (the term “non-binary” was not in wide use at that time), a Gender Outlaw in true Kate Bornstein style. Later, discouraged by how few people around me understood my gender, I became whatever others saw in me, even as what they saw—most often, a cisgender woman—did not feel quite right. Nothing really did.

The ambivalence I felt about my gender lingered into adulthood. For a long time I didn’t feel I could describe myself as transgender because I hadn’t heard a trans person telling a story like mine. Throughout my childhood I had searched for stories that would help me make sense of myself in books, on television, and from all the boys and men I knew in Cactus Country, the Arizona trailer park where I grew up. But it was only after I began writing my memoir that I realized complicated gender stories, while not at all uncommon, often go untold.

The unconscious associations many hold of trans people are often unwittingly based on decades of near-ubiquitous media portrayals of trans-coded villains and crude transphobic jokes. In real life, transgender identity is a vast spectrum of experience where each trans person’s story is unique. Some folx lean more heavily toward identifying binarily as a man or a woman. Others forgo the spectrum all together, describing themselves as non-binary. Some are consistent about what pronouns feel right for them while others adopt more fluid approaches to how they want the world to address them. In short, there are many ways to be trans but few stories that represent all these myriad paths. Most recently, the alarming success of the many cruel legislative attacks on trans rights from conservative, “gender critical” and religious groups both exposes how unfamiliar the greater public is with who and what trans people are, and highlights how misunderstood we continue to be.

The dearth of trans stories in our culture also renders trans people less able to recognize themselves. Despite my experiences growing up, by the time I took my first creative nonfiction workshop in college, I still didn’t see myself as trans. In that writing class, I was assigned to read an essay from Brevity. Clicking around the website, I couldn’t stop after just one essay. I read another piece, and then another. Soon I had read an entire issue. In the coming weeks and months I would pore over Brevity’s digital pages, hoping to learn more about how its writers managed to pack such amazingly full, vivid, compelling stories into so few sentences. But I was also drawn to the breadth of experience represented in the each of the issues I read. My favorite quickly became Brevity’s Experience of Gender issue. I will always remember how gutted I felt after reading Torrey Peters’ “Transgender Day of Remembrance” for the first time, and the spark of recognition from Madison Hoffman’s “Genderfuck,” which mirrored some experiences of my own.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the essays I read in that issue were some of the first stories I had ever heard by people with perspectives like mine. The longer I became involved in the writing community, the more of these true stories I found. Little by little, I began to write my own. In this midst of this discovery, I became Brevity’s managing editor and had the pleasure of reading every published essay in its vast catalog from 1997 to its then-current issue for The Best of Brevity anthology. In its 25 years of publication, Brevity has featured essays by writers from so many different walks of life over more than 70 issues, with several special issues including the aforementioned Experience of Gender issue, the (Glass) Ceiling or Sky? issue, the Race, Racialization, and Racism issue, and the Experiences of Disability issue.

In response to the growing waves of legislative attacks and transphobia in the United States and across the world in recent months, the editors here at Brevity would like to devote space to essays by transgender, gender nonconforming and gender expansive writers for our 75th issue in service of greater trans visibility and representation—of more portrayals of the complex, often messy, but always beautiful ways trans people can and do identify.

For this special issue, Brevity, along with the help of our lovely guest editors Krys Malcolm Belc, Silas Hansen, and Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, is seeking essays that consider what trans identity is, what it means, and how our understanding of it has changed and continues to change over time. We are hoping to hear from folx across the spectrum, and encourage submissions from those who might not consider themselves “writers” but have an important story to tell. We are especially interested in reading work that explores trans embodiment, examines encounters with transphobia, and/or otherwise gives voice to underrepresented perspectives and experiences.

Brevity’s submission portal for the special issue will open via our Submittable page on December 1st and close at the end of April 2023. Please help spread the word about this call for submissions on social media, in your writing groups, at local LGBTQIA+ organizations, and to your students! Thank you for supporting Brevity and trans writers. We are looking forward to reading your work and sharing some amazing essays with our community this coming year!

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Zoë Bossiere is Brevity‘s Managing Editor. She can be found online at zoebossiere.com

What We’re Looking For: Michael Steinberg Essay Prizes

January 24, 2022 § Leave a comment

Mary Cappello, Steinberg Essay Prize Judge

From Patrick Madden and Joey Franklin

This winter marks the third Michael Steinberg Memorial Essay Prize , since it was named in honor of Fourth Genre’s founding editor, who died at the end of 2019. It’s also our third year as editors, and the second year we’re also holding a Multimedia Essay Contest. All this has us taking stock of the curious responsibility that falls every year, not only to our guest judges, but also to us as editors. Looking back through the archives, we see two decades of preoccupation with similar questions: What constitutes creative nonfiction? What makes up a memoir? What passes as a personal essay? Since the journal’s first issue, whether it be in roundtable discussions, craft essays, or editorial notes, the directors and contributors of Fourth Genre have attempted to describe, define, and delimit the boundaries of the personal essay. 

We thought it might be useful to any of Brevity’s readers who are working toward their own understanding of the genre for us to briefly highlight some of those ideas from the past 20 years. And we hope it might also give interested readers a glimpse of “what we’re looking for” as we accept submissions for our two contests. 

First, a little wisdom from our personal essay contest namesake, Michael Steinberg:

  • “Most of my memoirs grow out of a need to interrogate my own thoughts and feelings in the hope of discovering something about myself that I couldn’t have found out any other way.”
  • “I also write memoirs because the form suits my temperament and disposition . . . I have a predilection for self-scrutiny and rumination, as well as for self-disclosure.”
  • “I believe that the artfully crafted personal essay or memoir is uniquely suited for our times. I say this because today our need to pay attention to the singular, idiosyncratic human voice is perhaps more urgent than ever before.”
  • “A lot of nonfiction writers are narrating only the literal story of their experience, and leaving out the ‘inner story’; that is, the story of their thinking.”
  • “The mind never stops searching for connections and asking questions. And that’s the thinking/feeling self I’d like to see more of in the personal narratives I read, both as a teacher and as an editor.”
  • “When we’re reading manuscripts, we’re always hoping to encounter a fully present narrator and a curious, idiosyncratic mind and imagination in the act of thinking things out on the page.”

And here are a few gems from this year’s Steinberg Memorial Essay Prize judge, Mary Cappello, author most recently of Lecture (Transit Books, 2020):“In order to write or make art one must be in love, not with an individual per se, but with life itself.”  

  • “Have you noticed that literary nonfiction is getting more and more wisp-like these days? I’m happy for an alternative robustness. The license for a work to morph, to exceed its placement, forgetful of itself, for a spell, even if, in the end, words insist on returning to the airy nothing from whence they spring.”
  • “It’s a problem that I have with finding pretty much everything interesting. It might be pathological. Or it might be what makes me an essayist.”

And finally, from Wayne Koestenbaum , this year’s judge for the Multimedia Essay Contest and author, recently, of Figure It Out (Soft Skull Press, 2020).

  • “What no one taught me is that to write I must sink away from one form of conscious navigation and surrender to what language decrees. I must dwell firmly enough within the language-net to feel that my experiences in the moment of writing are a consequence of the words and not simply their catalyst.”
  • “I believe in the persistence of play. All my writing is grounded in the practice of reckless verbal improvisation. I think it’s Winnicott who says somewhere that health is the ability to play.”
  • “I listen to what language tells me; I instigate the process, but once the language commences its relentless hum, punctuated by doldrum and silence and distraction and Instagram and anxiety, then I occupy the position of the cook who has been given the lamb and the milk and the lettuce but didn’t create them. … I can’t make myself known to you without this rule-governed armature, whose wendings and reprisals must take precedence over my ideas, even if language’s caparisoned marauders need the mulch of my ideation in order to have a ground to trample.”

“What we’re looking for” has never had a straightforward answer at Fourth Genre (nor likely at any other literary journal). We are all looking for good writing, and for those of us on the hunt for the best of the personal essay, we’re also looking for good thinking, expressed artfully.

We hope you find these few quotes to be helpful and inspiring, and if you’ve got a project in your files that you think might fit, we hope you’ll consider sending it to one of our contests by the March 15 deadline.

Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest

December 9, 2020 § 1 Comment

The Kenyon Review has announced its third annual 2021 Short Nonfiction Contest.

The contest is open to all writers who have not yet published a book of creative nonfiction. Submissions must be 1,200 words or fewer.

The Kenyon Review will publish the winning essays in the Mar/Apr 2022 issue, and the winning author will be awarded a scholarship to attend the 2021 Writers Workshop this summer.

Each entrant will receive a one-year subscription to the Kenyon Review which will start with the Mar/Apr 2021 issue. (Current subscribers will receive a one-year extension on their current subscription.)

More Information and Submission Portal.

The Case for Single-Sentence Prose in the Age of Insecurity

July 23, 2020 § 19 Comments

JasonThayerAuthorPicBy Jason Thayer

I was having trouble focusing. Every story idea, every essay concept seemed unwieldy, unmanageable in the hellscape of Spring 2020. My mind flitted from anxiety to new anxiety as I obsessively checked the infection rates, monitored the new restrictions, raged against the maskless. I sat down at my computer every afternoon and tried to write something new and failed. I tried to revise my memoir manuscript, but couldn’t keep track of the arc, couldn’t assess whether the pacing in the first chapter was too fast or whether my hook was punchy enough to attract an agent.

The doorbell rang. It was our neighbor, a woman with short gray hair who wore pedal pushers like my mother. She was hugging a cardboard box.

“We have this food I won’t eat,” she said, then took a breath. Exhaled. “I don’t know if you know yet, but my husband died last week.”

I did not know this. I stood on the front porch with her for a few moments, fumbling for condolences, finally taking the box of food.

I told my partner about the interaction, the way our neighbor had used the plural, we, and then the singular, I. We unpacked the saltines, the canned chicken breast, the diet 7-Up. Trips to the grocery store were daunting and so, even though these items didn’t top our shopping list, we made our way through the gifted food.

In the morning while I washed dishes, I’d see our neighbor walk past the window and my mind would swim toward her sadness. Grief is its own isolation, and knowing that she was bearing hers alone, in lockdown, seemed an unprecedented cruelty. My father died when I was a child, and with a loss like this, comes a special communion with the bereaved; I could not stop thinking about my neighbor. Wondering what she made for dinner, and how long the leftovers lasted. Whether she was eating much at all. Whether there were days she didn’t speak to anyone except the cat that skulked across her lawn chasing squirrels. At night, I would look across our yards, the ill-defined property line, and see her reading in her living room, a single light on in the big dark house. In the morning, I would see her walk past my window as I washed dishes, and if I let my mind linger too long on her sadness, my eyes would well.

I sat down to write about this, but again, the task of molding this small interaction into a traditional essay seemed daunting. I did not have the attention span to research the impact of grief on bereaved spouses, or cull my memory for a poignant anecdote that would characterize our deceased neighbor, bringing to light what was lost. Even a flash piece was more than I could commit to, as the daily news grew more and more grim, the world around us more chaotic and unstable.

2020-07-21_15-11-48But what about a single sentence? Could I write a single sentence about my neighbor’s private grief and its vicarious impact? Yes, I could. I could work within these parameters. I could commit to this.

The single-sentence format is well-suited for this new world where our attentions stray, where our brains must keep tabs on virus rates, on which family members aren’t wearing masks, on systemic racism, on cops murdering unarmed Black and brown people.

This isn’t to suggest the single-sentence form is any easier to write. For example, I had wanted to write this blog entry in a single sentence, but couldn’t manage to fit everything I wanted to say. The limitations of a single sentence challenge the writer to twist syntax, bend structure to their will, or else winnow narrative down to the bones.

But with these restrictions also comes the opportunity for innovation. Experiments that might not be sustainable in longer work are manageable, even revelatory in brief formats. Could I read a whole novel where the protagonist was a slice of pizza? No. But a single sentence? Definitely.

Single-sentence stories can be told in a single breath, like Hemingway’s famous, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” But they can also take the form of Diane Seuss’ tour d’force, “I hoisted them, two drug dealers, I guess that’s what they were,” published in Brevity. Here, content dictates form. The long-winded, tangent-laden single sentence mimics the breathless adrenaline of the speaker in that moment, trying to make sense of what she has just done, excising the two drug dealers from her son’s apartment. This form wouldn’t work for a plodding story without that charged immediacy.

For my purposes, a modest single sentence was ideal for distilling a small interaction that lingered with me:

I did not know our neighbor died until his wife knocked to offer a box of food she wouldn’t eat: pancake mix, diet 7-up, Pepperidge Farm white bread her husband had stomached during a 3-month-long losing-battle to cancer, a box I took gratefully, offering condolences—no hugs, because the virus was already spreading, and because I didn’t know these neighbors well enough to provide this comfort, in fact, had no idea that the jolly guy I’d bantered with under the black walnut tree we shared, had cancer—and now I try not to watch her, absorb her loneliness, take it as my own, the widow social distancing in that big house, leaving briefly for daily walks past our kitchen window as I wash dishes, griddle my partner a breakfast of pancakes.

I had seen single sentences published in lit mags before, but I’d never heard of a journal that dealt exclusively in single-sentence content. Well, I thought. That’s an idea. That’s a magazine for this new age of insecurity.

This July, I launched Complete Sentence, an online magazine of single-sentence prose. Weekly, we publish single-sentence essays, stories, reviews, and hot takes. If you are having trouble focusing, consider this challenge: write a single sentence. Just one. And then send it our way.

For submission guidelines to Complete Sentence, click here.

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Jason Thayer is the Editor-in-Chief of Complete Sentence. His work has been published in The Rumpus, Fourth Genre, Hobart, and Essay Daily among others. Find more info at jasonthayer.com and on twitter @thejasonthayer.

Writing and Publishing from the Front Lines of a Pandemic

June 3, 2020 § Leave a comment

ZoomChristopher Madden, David Lëgere, and Colin Hosten are editors at Woodhall Press, publisher of Flash Nonfiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Food, and the forthcoming Fast Funny Women. The three of them had a socially distanced discussion on our current public health crisis and the importance of storytelling as a way of documenting individual experiences. Below is a truncated transcript of their conversation:

Christopher Madden: We’ve published two collections of flash nonfiction, with a third on the way. Is this perhaps the right format for pandemic-related storytelling?

Colin Hosten: The context seems very different, thematically. We’ve tackled humor and food. How would we navigate the ongoing tragedy of this crisis?

David Lëgere: The theme is different, but I don’t think that changes our goal as a publisher—to connect readers and writers through vital storytelling.

CM: Flash nonfiction, specifically, may be very well suited for people on the front line of this pandemic, as opposed to longer form essays.

DL: Exactly—it allows us to capture as many voices as possible in one compendium.

CH: And what kinds of voices would we be seeking? You mention people on the front lines…

CM: Basically anyone facing this crisis head-on. Nurses and other medical professionals. ER staff. Essential workers making sure trash is still picked up. Delivery workers, first responders….

DL: Patients?

CM: Sure—the idea is to preserve and amplify these essential voices and stories from anyone caught on the front lines of this.

CH: I think it’s a fantastic idea. And it may be a way to highlight some of the things that these diverse voices might have in common.

DL: What should we use as a working title?

CH: We already have a paradigm going with Flash Nonfiction Funny and Flash Nonfiction Food. Maybe something like Flash Nonfiction Frontline?

CM: Is that too general? Should we make it clearer that we mean the front lines of this pandemic?

DL: I mean, this is basically the main thing occupying the public consciousness for the foreseeable future—let’s just be direct: Flash Nonfiction COVID-19.

CH: Well, that certainly is direct.

CM: It’s more to-the-point,

CH: We’ll need to get a call for submissions out, sooner rather than later.

DL: Are people even able to do much writing through all this stress and trauma?

CM: Maybe part of the point of this is to encourage those on the front lines to use writing as a tool for reflection, for negotiating the trauma.

CH: And, again, the flash form allows people to dive right in and back out again in just 750 words. To Chris’s point, flash nonfiction may be the appropriate vehicle for something like this.

DL: So what’s the best way to get the word out, besides all the usual suspects?

CH: Brevity publishes some of the best flash nonfiction being written these days. We should reach out to them and see if they’d be willing to share with their readers.

DL: Good idea!

CM: I sure hope we get lots of strong submissions.

DL: I’ll be checking flashnonfictioncovid@gmail.com every day!

CH: And let’s make sure folks know they can go to https://www.woodhallpress.com/post/call-for-submissions for more information.

CM: And share it with their friends on the front lines!

New Ohio Review Nonfiction Contest: Three More Days

April 19, 2020 § Leave a comment

new-ohio-reviewBy Connor Beeman

New Ohio Review has extended its annual contest until April 22nd — that’s just three more days — and we’re happy to announce that Ira Sukrungruang is our nonfiction judge. Sukrungruang is the author of two memoirs, Southside Buddhist and Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy; a short story collection, The Melting Season; and a collection of poetry, In Thailand It Is Night, as well as the recent collection of essays, Buddha’s Dog & Other Meditations. He’s a Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College and the recipient of the 2015 American Book Award as well as several prominent fellowships.

Sukrungruang’s writing often confronts his upbringing, and in particular deals with his Thai heritage, eastern religion, and life in America as the son of Thai immigrants. Buddhism plays a vital role in many of his works, as can been seen in essays from Buddha’s Dog. “The Animatronic Dog,” for instance, blends a vivid account of growing up Thai in Chicago with a story of Buddha befriending a dog. This story is told to Sukrungruang by his mother, who is herself an unforgettable figure throughout the book. Another essay, “The Dog Without a Bark,” finds a young Sukrungruang briefly befriending a local dog with cut vocal cords and finding an unexpected connection. Looking back on this moment, Sukrungruang writes, “I remember that Sheltie for the lessons I carry with me: you don’t need a voice to know what you want. You don’t need to sound like everyone else to make yourself heard.”

We’re excited to have Ira Sukrungruang—an inimitable voice in his own right and a wonderful writer and teacher—as our nonfiction judge, and we look forward to seeing the work that you share.

https://newohioreview.submittable.com/submit

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Connor Beeman is an Editorial Associate at New Ohio Review.

About the Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest

March 13, 2020 § 2 Comments

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By Carma Hiland

Fourth Genre is offering a $1,000 cash prize for your best nonfiction essay when you submit to the Steinberg Essay contest, and we’ve just extended the deadline until the end of the month! As excited as we are about this contest, as writers ourselves, we also understand the inherent sense of unease that comes with writing contests. There’s something unsettling about bribing authors for their art. Is money the most appealing prize? Is it enticing enough to get an author to release their personal essay into the world, especially into the hands of unfamiliar judges?

Sending an essay into the abyss of the contest system can be stressful in many different ways. All of us on the Fourth Genre editorial team, myself included, have gotten to submission pages and reconsidered whether the submission fee—in this case, $20—is worth the small chance an essay will win or get published. And there are other questions we, as essay readers and writers, tend to ask, such as, should creative writing be so easily commodified? Does exchanging your writing for money cheapen the experience? Is the grueling process of drafting, revising multiple times, and submitting after hovering over the submit button for longer than you’re willing to admit worth the time for the payout?

Joey Franklin, co-editor at Fourth Genre, writes on this system of competition in an article published in the June 2019 issue of Poets & Writers. “For many of us, the real reward for entering a creative writing contest will not be money or publication,” he writes, “but rather the invaluable education that comes with finishing a piece of writing, and the particular clarity that comes from rejection.”

The greater reward is certainly the accomplishment of completing an essay that others may connect with and enjoy. Few of us choose to write out of any monetary motivation. But a little extra cash doesn’t hurt, nor does the chance at publication. In the spirit of clarity, here is a glance into the sorting process at Fourth Genre. During our regular reading period (Aug. 30 through Nov. 30) we receive around 900 essays; however, the normal submission rate for the Steinberg Essay contest drastically drops to 250 submissions. Take advantage of this. Many readers are involved in ranking each essay. Even if you don’t come away with the cash prize, all essays submitted during the contest are eligible to be published in the following issue.

Let us celebrate your writing. Don’t let your nonfiction molder in your documents folder; gain the education that comes with finishing a piece of writing and letting it out into the world. The Steinberg Essay contest is a great opportunity to do that—and could come with monetary rewards, too.

We have extended the deadline for Steinberg contest submissions to March 31st.
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Carma Hiland is assistant managing editor of Fourth Genre.

 

 

Call for Submissions: Adapt This City

November 11, 2019 § 1 Comment

slagFrom Slag Glass Citya nonfiction literary journal of the urban essay arts:

Announcing a special call for submissions: Adapt This City. Nonfiction prose, photography, and hybrid works submitted for this call are accepted from November 5, 2019—February 5, 2020.

Creative nonfiction selected for publication by the 2020 editorial board will be published in the online journal and promoted broadly, as well as considered for publication in the annual miniature print edition.

Here in the Slag Glass City we want to see stories, arguments, lyrics, and reports about 21st century cities transforming, in tiny or tremendous ways. We welcome fresh takes and variations including: mosaic, montage, photographs, soundscape, drawing, image + text, video, audio, and/or hybridity. We have no length requirements and will consider prose from short-short/flash to longform.

As rising shorelines consume cities, as displacement guts neighborhoods, as immigrant families fear deportation raids, as city dwellers fight epic battles for rent control and public school teachers strike, as desert cities burn and hurricanes blow ocean cities off their foundations, how are we adapting? Can the contemporary metropolis adjust to cataclysmic change—the urgent and the everyday, the systemic and the intimate? When we do adapt, who benefits, who pays, and how is the city implicated? Can the old city adapt into the city we need now, without leaving anyone behind?

Write us a city bent on survival.

Submit all work to our special submission portal: https://tinyurl.com/SlagGlassAdaptations. (Visual artists should submit low resolution samples, or contact us to share work too large for the Submittable portal.)

Regular submissions are still open October-June. Slag Glass City considers nonfiction prose, graphic narrative, video, audio, soundscape, photography, mixed media, or any other form of essay arts. The prose cannot be previously published, including on author blogs, but visual art may appear on artist’s sites. We are unable to pay contributors, but artists retain all rights, we promote widely, and all work published stays “in-print” online.

Slag Glass City is a magazine of essay arts, textual burlesque, and post-industrial forms, edited by Barrie Jean Borich. Published at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, we are an international creative nonfiction and multidisciplinary media journal engaged with sustainability, identity, and art in urban environments. The living city is broken and blooming. How will our roof gardens grow?

If you have QUESTIONS please email this address: slagglasscity@gmail.com

Image by Carlos ZGZ

Experiences of Disability Issue Open for Submissions

October 1, 2019 § 8 Comments

disability editorsSubmissions are now being accepted for Brevity’s upcoming special issue, “Experiences of Disability,” to be published in September 2020.  You can submit your flash essays here.

For this issue, we invite brief nonfiction submissions (750 words or fewer) 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 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.

The “Experiences of Disability” issue will be guest edited by Sonya Huber, Keah Brown, and Sarah Fawn Montgomery (shown above). Huber is the author of five books, including the essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System. 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. Montgomery is the author of the recent memoir Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir.

Our anchor author, Esmé Weijun Wang, 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 until March 1, 2020. 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.

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