Ursula K. Le Guin Has Gone on Ahead

January 24, 2018 § 25 Comments

0815-ursula-le-guin-2_qrm2pmby Jan Priddy

As soon as I open a document and before I begin typing, I select ‘Layout’ to indicate margins on my page. The guidelines do not show when I print, but they help me know where I am as I write.

Ursula K. Le Guin helps me know where I am.

She is not gone.

The obituaries are respectful. They list her more obvious accomplishments—the awards, the publications, her activism and generosity to other writers. They want to label her a “popular fantasy” writer, though these are not terms she would have chosen. “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” she asked in 1974. We dismiss what we consider “unrealistic” in our country, but that is a mistake. In the hands of a philosopher with substantial anthropological credentials, essays and poems, novels and stories are not escapism but challenges to our imagination.

For more than twenty years, I began my Junior English classes with Le Guin’s “The Wife’s Story” (1982) from Buffalo Gals. I read the five pages aloud, and then we talked about the nature of betrayal until the bell rang.

That most famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973), provokes questions: Would readers walk away or stay in paradise. Are we willing to allow another pay for our perfection? They are troubling questions, but contain another, underlying moral assumption: Must someone pay? In our superstitious faith in balance, do we demand another’s pain for our pleasure?

She gives us the suffering child in the basement because we insist that child exist.

“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly,” Le Guin said in 2005.

My husband was standing at an information desk in Powell’s Book Store, a couple of years ago, when he recognized Ursula coming up the wide stairs and duck around into the Purple Room.

“There goes Ursula Le Guin,” he said to the millennial behind the counter.


We laughed about this again just the other day. Young sales clerks being what they are, they will learn.

Imagination is not mere child’s play, it is the only way we pursue what is possible, what is grand and just and beautiful.

She should have had the Nobel. She should have lasted longer because we need her here. We should have appreciated her more while we had her. My deepest sympathy to her family, her closest friends, and to all the rest of us.

Jan Priddy took classes from Ursula K. Le Guin, took tea in her Cannon Beach kitchen, ferried her to readings, and attended Jane Todd’s writers’ book club where Molly Gloss sat on her right, Ursula next, and Cheryl Strayed on her left. She read her books. They both had two years of Latin in high school and loved the beach.


Brevity’s January 2018 Issue is Here

January 16, 2018 § 6 Comments

11-FruchterBrevity is pleased to present the first issue of our third decade, featuring work from Beverly Donofrio, Jack Pendarvis, Abigail Thomas, Temim Fruchter, Jessica Handler, Fleda Brown, Heather Sellers, Jeff Gundy, and a rich array of other outstanding writers, chronicling pine trees and gar, the mud and the gravel, the creek and the trees, and the endless peculiarity of the human experience.

Also, three brilliant craft essays: Chelsey Drysdale examines how a writer transforms an essay collection into a memoir, Felicia Rose Chavez asks why so many wives and mothers feel like a “sometime-y writer,” and Annelise Jolley captures Mary Karr’s sacred carnality.

We’ve just turned 21.  Feel free to buy us a beer.



More Chinese Brevity

November 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

china_brevityWe posted yesterday about Brevity magazine’s new availability in Chinese translation, specifically on the Chinese social media platforms Zhihu and WeChat. Today, we are happy to share four more essays-in-translation:

The Ten-Year Wake by Sue William Silverman:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/KE8QSQCU7PazUwpFYft4Fw. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31205977 (Zhihu)

The Shape of Emptiness by Brenda Miller:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/7JehzNpp1LG3akUjMX32xQ. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31206160 (Zhihu)

Anniversary Disease by Diane Seuss:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/kZuUgwAnV0iMMgBwAP8j-A. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31424634 (Zhihu)

What Bad Owners Say at the Dog Park by Lise Funderburg:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/XyNh2l1G2ZUEFJzbIye7Lw (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31424698 (Zhihu)

Meanwhile, If you missed yesterday’s post, the details are here:

For Chinese readers, Brevity will go under the name One Leaf. Tong Tong, part of the translation team, explains: “We intend to translate ‘Brevity’ into ‘一叶 yi ye’ in Chinese. Its literary meaning is ‘one leaf,’ and it’s an abbreviation of a Chinese idiom ‘一叶知秋,’ which means that one can sense the advent of autumn via the changes on one leaf. We think that it shows the power of brief writing. In addition, it is a homophone of ‘一页,’ which means one page of paper. We hope you like this name!”

We very much like the name, and we are happy to share the first three postings, including the editor’s introduction to our 20th Anniversary Issue:

“On Turning Twenty”: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31011523

And these essays:

Ira Sukrungruang’s “Invisible Partners”: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31011526

Rebecca McLanahan’s “The Birthday Place”: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31011527


Brevity in Chinese Translation: Welcome to ‘One Leaf’

November 27, 2017 § 5 Comments

one_leafBrevity magazine is now available to Chinese readers thanks to a translation project undertaken by Tong Tong, a graduate student at Boston College, and Yumeng Yao, an MA student at University College London. The literary translation team is posting essays from Brevity‘s 20th Anniversary Issue two-at-a-time, using the Chinese social media platforms Zhihu and WeChat.

For Chinese readers, Brevity will go under the name One Leaf.  Tong Tong explains the reasoning here: “We intend to translate ‘Brevity’ into ‘一叶 yi ye’ in Chinese. Its literary meaning is ‘one leaf,’ and it’s an abbreviation of a Chinese idiom ‘一叶知秋,’ which means that one can sense the advent of autumn via the changes on one leaf. We think that it shows the power of brief writing. In addition, it is a homophone of ‘一页,’ which means one page of paper. We hope you like this name!”

We very much like the name, and we are happy to share the first three postings, including the editor’s introduction to our 20th Anniversary Issue:

“On Turning Twenty”: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31011523

And these essays:

Ira Sukrungruang’s “Invisible Partners”:


Rebecca McLanahan’s “The Birthday Place”:


The Ten-Year Wake by Sue William Silverman:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/KE8QSQCU7PazUwpFYft4Fw. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31205977 (Zhihu)

The Shape of Emptiness by Brenda Miller:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/7JehzNpp1LG3akUjMX32xQ. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31206160 (Zhihu)

Anniversary Disease by Diane Seuss:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/kZuUgwAnV0iMMgBwAP8j-A. (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31424634 (Zhihu)

What Bad Owners Say at the Dog Park by Lise Funderburg:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/XyNh2l1G2ZUEFJzbIye7Lw (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31424698 (Zhihu)

Louie’s New Truck by Emry McAlear:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/bkdvB7U-lkbnq6zmkMYMwA (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31889904 (Zhihu)

Wishbone by Marilyn Abildskov

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/MlJl09sz8YtMq-kZWnEMRg (WeChat)

https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/31889897 (Zhihu)

Abandoned by Bob McGinness
Good Faith by Lee Martin

And here is a bit more about our translators:

Yumeng Yao graduated from Kenyon College with a history and Asian studies double major. He is currently attending the MA history program at University College London. He enjoys reading about early modern East Asia, wandering on the streets, and going to Cat Café.

Tong Tong is an MA student in English at Boston College. Interested in short stories, essays and modernist novels, she looks forward to working in translation and publishing and to bridge the gap between Chinese culture and the English world.

Many thanks to Ton Tong and Yumeng Yao for helping us expand our readership.

Brevity’s Twentieth Year & A New Issue

September 18, 2017 § 8 Comments

brevit20ylogoxx1Twenty years ago I had an idea for a magazine that combined the swift impact of flash fiction with the true storytelling of memoir, and Brevity was born. To be honest, I expected it to last a year.

But here we are, with our 56th Issue, marking two decades of providing fine flash essays to readers, students, and teachers. To celebrate, we specially commissioned authors who have appeared multiple times in Brevity over the years to return to our pages, and when you read the work of Lee Martin, Diane Seuss, Brenda Miller, Sue William Silverman, Rebecca McClanahan, and Ira Sukrungruang in this issue, you may detect a common theme (or at least a common word).

A large part of Brevity’s mission remains providing a venue for new writers, sometimes writers who are previously unpublished, often writers who are just starting out. You’ll find these folks in our new issue as well.

​Plus a trio of fascinating craft essays from Karen Babine, Nicole Caron, and Jill Talbot.

Thank you to all of our authors over the years, to our readers, and to our staff of brilliant volunteers!

— Dinty W. Moore

P.S. — Brevity is staffed by volunteers, and paying the bills can be a dicey proposition, but still we pay our authors and are proud of that. Whatever assistance you can provide will help us to expand and strengthen our upcoming issues. ​We are a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization, and as such all of your donations are tax-deductible. You can donate here:  YOUR SUPPORT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED

Writers Conferences: Doodling HippoCamp 2017

September 16, 2017 § 8 Comments

By Rebecca Fish Ewan

1 hippocamp17 donna

1. HippoCamp, the brainchild of Donna Talarico-Beerman, in its third year, three-plus days of focus on creative nonfiction. p.s. Donna has way more amazing hair than shown here. I tend to put a little of myself in all my portraits and my hair sucks.

2 hippocamp17 Beverly

2. So funny. Waiting to forget the movie plot, so I can enjoy reading Riding in Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio, serial memoirist.

3 hippocamp17 Dina and Melanie

3. Dina Honour’s voice still resonates in my head. Keep an eye out for the army of women she’s amassing. They will save humanity.

4 hippocamp17 Joanne Lara Alexis

4. All of the readers that followed Dina brought their own brand of awesomeness, reading from their debut books. Google them: Melanie Brooks, Joanne Lazar Glenn, Lara Lillibridge, Alexis Paige and Lisa Smith.

5 hippocamp17 Lisa and panel

5. Their panel after the readings set a tone of generosity, humor and serious investigation of craft that echoed throughout the conference.

6. hippocamp17 Gabriela

6. Gabriela Pereira presented a VITAL analytic for finding your groove as a writer. p.s. You don’t have to write 2,000 words a day just because Stephen King says so.

7 hippocamp17 Lara

7. I love hybrid work, so duh, I’m going to this session. Lara Lillibridge cracked my head open even more.

8 hippocamp17 Penny and Alexis

8.  Penny Guisinger & Alexis Paige. Flash CNF. Take off. Compress. Embody. Reflect. Land.

9 hippocamp17 Allison

9.  #AllisonWilliamsishilarious&platformsmakemewanttobarf

10 hippocamp17 Athena

10. Athena Dixon’s advice: “Be Brave. Explore new avenues of yourself. Don’t exclude people. Put yourself in the shoes of marginalized writers/people. Be a voice for people who are marginalized. Don’t make people tokens.” Bingo! (Yes Bingo! we made our own bingo squares).

11 hippocamp17 John

11.  If I only remember 11 out of 20 words, should I go see a neurologist? No, because memory is a construct that we reconstruct all the time, so next week I’ll believe I remembered all 20 words. Huge relief.

12 hippocamp17 Donna and Tobias

12.  I love when famous people don’t act famous. I love that Tobias Wolff admitted he can spend many hours alone in a chair “taking semicolons out and putting them back in again.”

13 hippocamp17 Elane

13.  I wish I had doodled everyone on the Flash Panel I was on, but first (Lisa Cottrell) I was too nervous, because I had to present next. Then I had to doodle Elane Johnson and her BALLS. Then I worried, if I sketch (Kate Meadows and Lisa Romeo), the audience will think I’m rude and not paying attention.

14 hippocamp17 Sam

14.  Then I saw this amazing nose (Sam Schindler) in profile and had to draw it.

15 hippocamp17 essays and articles panel

15.  Okay, by now my head is about to explode from all the thinking and learning it’s been doing. Shh, shh, listen. Dina said this. Okay. Platform. Pitch. Twitter. Acceptance 10%. Rejection 90%. Bottom line: write, submit, repeat. Find your voice. Find its place. Both exist.

16 hippocamp17 Agents and Editors panel

16. This is advice gleaned from the list of mistakes writers make when querying/sending a proposal: Have a strong concept, a strong voice, a complete and polished manuscript, consider publishing costs, use spellcheck, listen to the agent/editor, match the execution to your pitch. p.s. Platform.

17 hippocamp17 Dinty

18.  When Dinty feels inadequate as a writer, he worries that his nostrils are too big. I couldn’t see his nostrils from where I sat, but just want to point this out, so you know even Dinty W. Moore frets about silly things as a writer. He gave tons of sage advice that I hope he publishes somewhere soon, but I have enough words left here to pass this on: “Don’t hold anything back. Life is too short.”

18 hippocamp17 Donna and Kevin

19.  Donna and Kevin. Seriously. Totally adorable. But underneath their exterior of major kind cuteness lies dedication and commitment. Donna has done the heavy-lifting for HippoCamp 15-17, helped out by a team of volunteers, including local rock star Kevin Beerman. Bravo Donna!

P.S. HippoCamp returns to Lancaster in late summer 2018. Details Here.


Rebecca Fish Ewan is the founder of Plankton Press (where small is big enough) and creates Tiny Joys & GRAPH(feeties) zines. She is a poet/cartoonist/professor/mom/writer and teaches in The Design School at Arizona State University. Her publications include work in Brevity, Femme Fotale, Survivor Zine and Hip Mama. She has two creative nonfiction books: A Land Between (JHUP, 2000) and By the Forces of Gravity, a memoir of cartoons and verse about a Berkeley childhood friendship cut short by tragedy, forthcoming from Books by Hippocampus. @rfishewan

Brevity Rolls Forward, a Bit Older, a Bit Wiser

September 12, 2017 § 6 Comments

brevit20ylogoxxBrevity’s next issue, rolling out next week, will mark our 20th year of publication, an anniversary that is both wonderful and unexpected, given the tenuousness of literary publishing.  Let’s just say we are glad to still be around.

In addition to the excellent essays and various other surprises we have in store for you in next week’s Issue #57, we have two special blog features rolling out this month.

One is termed The <750> Project, wherein Guest Editor Shane Borrowman asks past Brevity authors to return to their piece and take on the task of either shortening or expanding it. Ann Claycomb took the scalpel to her essay “WQED, Channel 13: Programming Guide,” from Brevity 31; Steven Church took “Lag Time,” Brevity 33, and built 411 words to 806; William Bradley trimmed “Julio at Large” from Brevity 32 nearly in half; and Emily Franklin doubled the size of “Semi-Significant Moments in Googleland; Results of My Top Three Searches,” from Brevity 18. Shane Borrowman tackled the task as well, cutting his 2009 essay “Icky Papa Died” down to the bone.

The authors also reflected on the process of cutting or expanding, and the results, we think, are perfect for classroom use (and just darn interesting to read and ponder.) Watch this space.

Speaking of the classroom: Our second special blog feature, Teaching Brevity,‘ edited by our Special Projects Editor Sarah Einstein, features Kelly Kathleen Ferguson, Amy Monticello, Penn Guisinger, Heidi Czerwiec, Frances Backhouse, and Lisa Romeo discussing the various ways in which they use the magazine in teaching, some of them focusing on the whole Brevity enchilada, others on particular essays they love to teach.  Watch this space for that feature as well.

Meanwhile, in just one year we’ll be old enough to buy our own drinks.  If you feel so inclined (and want to help us notch 20 more years), we could use some beer money.

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