Building Literary Community in Hard Times

September 19, 2020 § 4 Comments

Brevity Editor-in-Chief Dinty W. Moore and Social Media Editor Allison K Williams, author of the forthcoming Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro, discuss the joys and struggles of virtual literary citizenship and how writers can build community, even via webcam and Zoom account.

Tomorrow is the final day for an Early Bird Discount on Rebirth Your Writing: a Publishing and Craft Intensive to be held in mid-October, aimed at helping us keep our writing alive despite the challenges of the current moment. (More details on schedule and registration here.).

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Dinty: There are so many changes in our lives due to this pandemic and the necessity of cancelling events and staying home. For writers, that means we aren’t casually bumping into one another at readings or coffee shops, or attending weekend writing seminars at our local Literary Centers. Writing is a lonely enough activity as it is, but it feels a bit lonelier right now.  Have you noticed writers building community in new ways?

Allison: I have – I’m actually phoning people to talk at length, which I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve done a couple of Zoom events where participants are randomly sent into breakout rooms for 6-7 minutes, and meet a couple of other people. Each time I think, “This will be awful” and each time I end up being grateful for the connection and sustaining contact with at least one of the other people. I’m also seeing more genuine conversations on Twitter, rather than just dropping cleverness bombs and running away, and on Instagram, where people are asking quite soul-searching questions and having sustained interaction in the comments. So it’s a mix of writers reaching out and hoping someone latches on, and facilitated conversations where a host metaphorically says, “Talk to Susie, you’ll love her!” and it turns out I do.

Dinty: I’ve attended a few Zoom webinars as well, but have also been teaching online, and I will add that from the teacher side of the webcam, the experience is more successful than I ever would have guessed. I was skeptical, in other words, that teaching by Zoom would be anything more than ‘sterile’ or ‘robotic,’ but it has turned out to be the exact opposite. It feels, as you say above, “genuine.” And the participants seem happy to be there, and generous with their insights and comments. Maybe one reason is that so many of us are locked down at home, and we crave more connection. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased with how well it has worked.

Allison: What I love as a teacher is what I’m learning about teaching that I’ll one day take back into the live classroom. Because eye contact doesn’t quite line up, I’m remembering to use people’s names more, and to watch for clues they’d like to talk, even if they’re not ready to signal it. We’re all waiting longer after a comment or question to see who’d like to speak next, and I think that lets each others’ words really sink in, before the next person offers their thoughts. There’s a “performative listening” that for me is translating into deeper actual listening. And both you and I want to build on that, which is why we’re including time for writers to talk to each other, both casually and intentionally, in this thing we’re about to do! Turning on the Zoom room early for “cafe time” where people can bring their coffee, leaving it on through the midday break, and having a couple of sessions where we’re facilitating small-group conversations about their work and their goals. I’m hoping writers will leave with sustained connections and a specific plan for their work. When you’ve got someone to check in on your goals with, even if it’s very low-key, it’s like having a little mastermind.

Dinty: I am ready for this pandemic era to be over, ready to push my way into a crowded restaurant, ready for the next big writers conference with a crowded, noisy lobby and maybe a late-at-night gathering in the hotel bar. But I’m guessing we’ll look back with partial fondness even at this difficult time period, because there is always something. Like you, I think the online camaraderie, the enthusiasm people have brought to these Zoom events, will remain in my memory as a small silver lining to a largely difficult time. Stay well, stay safe, and wear you mask.

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More information on the Rebirth Your Writing intensive and the Early Bird Discount can be found at the Rebirth Website.

 

Our Newest Issue: Experiences of Disability

September 15, 2020 § 2 Comments

We’ve posted our new issue this morning and we couldn’t be more pleased. The brief essays in this guest-edited special issue consider all aspects of illness and disability: what it is, what it means, how our understanding of disability is changing. The issue’s authors 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.
Our anchor author is novelist and essayist Esmé Weijun Wang, author of the New York Times-bestselling essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias. Other authors featured include Barbara Lanciers, Meg Le Duc, William Fargason, Ona Gritz, Kelly Weber, Maya Osman-Krinsky, Tiffany Promise, Ellen Samuels, Laura Brady, Jeanene Harlick, Amie McGraham, Katie Schwarz, Caroline Bock, and Erin Vachon.

The “Experiences of Disability” issue is guest edited by Keah Brown, Sonya Huber, and Sarah Fawn Montgomery. Artwork by Jill Khoury.


Read the new issue here: https://brevitymag.com/

The Power of Positivity in Storytelling

August 31, 2020 § 8 Comments

Author Headshot_Sweta Vikram_BrevityBy Sweta Srivastava Vikram

I have had several folks tell me that they have a persistent sense that the world is coming to an end. Between the pandemic, racism, and world leaders losing their marbles, most of us are feeling traumatized. It doesn’t help that so many are still working remotely with minimal social interactions, cued into the news constantly, and scrolling through social media where we end up watching/listening to a lot of negativity.

Research tells us that people are naturally attracted to negative news, in part because our brains are primed to scan the environment for danger and remember threats later, as a way of promoting survival. Because of their beliefs, they get careless with what they consume (food, media, and thoughts).

I believe that there is still a lot of good in this world. I do believe there are a lot of reliable people who can make positive change. It is unfortunate that our mainstream media often wants us to think the opposite. Because of the content bombarded at us, it’s equally fair to ask how one can be positive in this current climate. Honestly, it takes a shift in the mindset and an effort to see the good in the world. The idea that your mind can change your world almost seems too good to be true. But research tells us that a person with a positive thinking mindset can anticipate happiness, health and success, and believes that they can overcome any obstacle and difficulty.

The constant focus on negativity can affect your health. This article in Forbes delves into the impact negativity has on our stress levels and as a result, our health. “If you experience stress, you release cortisol, the main stress hormone. Cortisol has a variety of effects, including on the immune system. If you consistently experience negative emotions, you will be subjected to stress and more sensitive to stressful situations. Being positive is the best defense against stress, after all.”

Don’t just focus on what’s not working. I am not suggesting that we ignore the status quo. But my suggestion is to try and find that ray of light that urges you to navigate the world through kindness and positivity. For all the negative stories we write and hear, can we make an intentional effort to share positive words as well? As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

It’s important to see and share the truth. But the truth is that every culture has several stories. Don’t adhere to just one about negativity. I hear some of my closest African American friends remind us that they want us to celebrate Black culture with joy. Don’t read and watch material that only focuses on Black victimization; be curious and educate yourself about stories of empowerment as well. There are so many inspiring moments born from BLM protests.

Experiences of positive emotions are central to human nature and contribute richly to the quality of people’s lives. In Bollywood and media in India, we mostly hear/read stories about patriarchy, violence against women, and gender inequality. Yes, these are all truths that must be told. But India has also produced powerful, female role models like Indira Gandhi (Former Prime Minister of India), Shakuntala Devi (Known as the “human calculator,” she is in the Guinness Book of World Records), Indra Nooyi (Former CEO, Pepsico), and Priyank Chopra Jonas (Former Miss World and star of hit show Quantico). Can we talk about them as well to inspire?

A study, Constructive Journalism: The Effects of Positive Emotions and Solution Information in News Stories, by Karen McIntyre tells us that people who read inspiring news stories were more willing afterwards to sign up for generous actions related to the story, such as signing a petition or donating money to support a cause from the story.

Stories are a powerful tool for learning. I believe that positive, empowering stories can have huge educational value. Mr. Anil Bhasin, Managing Director, Empower Activity Camps—a corporate outbound training & adventure resort near Mumbai, India said, “The rural areas of India look up to Bollywood stars and mimic messages and behavior shown in movies. If all the stories are about misogynistic and violent men, the men in small towns and villages believe that’s what an Indian man ‘looks’ like. But if there were stories highlighting men supportive human beings, equal partners, caregivers, feminist allies…it might inspire the moviegoers to emulate positive behavior.”

It takes gumption to make intentional efforts to stay on the side of positivity and tell positive stories. But including daily doses of positivity—a cultivated habit—can change how you see the world. It is actually good for our mental health as well as relationships. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate.”
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Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe. She also teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well incarcerated men and women. Find her on: TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Facebook.

The Best of Brevity: Pre-Ordering Now Available

August 20, 2020 § 8 Comments

brev webimageWe are proud and happy to announce that The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction is now available for preordering (and free shipping too.)

Over the past 20 years, Brevity has become one of the longest-running and most popular online literary publications, a journal readers regularly return to for insightful essays from skilled writers at every stage of their careers. Featuring examples of nonfiction forms such as memoir, narrative, lyric, braided, hermit crab, and hybrid, The Best of Brevity brings you 84 of the best-loved and most memorable reader favorites, collected in print for the first time. Compressed to their essence, these essays glint with drama, grief, love, and anger, as well as innumerable other lived intensities, resulting in an anthology that is as varied as it is unforgettable, leaving the reader transformed.

With contributions from Krys Malcolm Belc, Jenny Boully, Brian Doyle, Roxane Gay, Daisy Hernández, Michael Martone, Ander Monson, Patricia Park, Kristen Radtke, Diane Seuss, Abigail Thomas, Jia Tolentino, and many more (listed here), The Best of Brevity offers unparalleled diversity of style, form, and perspective for those interested in reading, writing, or teaching the flash nonfiction form.

WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER FOR THE BEST OF BREVITY

Get free U.S. shipping on your preorder (through November 17) using coupon code BREVITYSHIPSFREE at checkout.

The Power Of Story: A CNF Webinar

June 25, 2020 § 11 Comments

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore will be offering a one-hour webinar next week, titled The Power of Story: Finding the River of Meaning in Your Memoir or Essay, as part of Creative Nonfiction‘s virtual education program.

The online webinar will examine the craft elements that can transform a memoir or essay from a mere collection of scenes or observations into something powerful, and how writers can create a dynamic, compelling whole greater than the sum of its many parts. The goal, as Langston Hughes writes, is to tell a story that is “older than the flow of human blood in human veins.”

This how-to webinar will allow writers to:
  • FIND the power of story and discover how locating your “Invisible Magnetic River” will insure that readers stay engaged and curious from beginning to end.
  • LEARN how story can help to solve many of the frustrations and obstacles that can interfere with  both writing and revision.
  • DISTINGUISH between a chain of events and a compelling story that contains a dynamic emotional flow.
  • UNDERSTAND that the surest way to make your book or essay one that readers want to read–and, in that way, one that editors want to publish–is to tell a damn good story.

Writers at any level, at the beginning of a project or in the revision process, are welcome.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2 pm – 3:15 pm EDT

$20 

Advance registration required. REGISTER HERE.

 

About the instructor: Dinty W. Moore is author of the memoir Between Panic & Desire and the writing guides The Story Cure and Crafting the Personal Essay, among many other books. He has published essays and stories in the Georgia ReviewHarper’s, the New York Times Magazine, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. He is founding editor of Brevity, the journal of flash nonfiction, and teaches master classes and workshops across the United States as well as in Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, and Mexico.

See the Book Trailer for The Best of Brevity

June 24, 2020 § 4 Comments

The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction launches in November 2020, featuring 84 of the best-loved and most memorable reader favorites from our first 20 years, collected in print for the first time. The collected memoirs, narratives, lyric essays, braided essays, hermit crabs, and hybrids offer an unparalleled diversity of style, form, and perspective for those interested in reading, writing, or teaching the flash nonfiction form.

Preordering begins in mid-August, but you can have a sneak preview now by watching the book trailer posted by the brilliant publishers at Rose Metal Press.

Book Trailer for The Best of Brevity

Have a look, and in a few short months, have a book!

 

 

Solidarity

June 6, 2020 § 3 Comments

Now is not the time for silence, so Brevity’s website has been modified to acknowledge the importance of this moment in our history, and the crucial struggle now underway:

solidarity_brevity

We at Brevity magazine and the Brevity blog stand in solidarity with the protesters and with the Black Lives Matter movement. We deplore the ongoing police violence toward people of color. We unequivocally stand with those who seek justice and reform through protests across our country and the world.

This is an important time to listen to Black voices, and we invite you to revisit our Fall 2016 special issue on Race, Racism, and Racialization.

We recommend as well the resources that can be found at Campaign Zero and LitHub.

Learn more to become a better ally.

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“If now isn’t a good time for the truth, I don’t see when we’ll get to it.”
~ Nikki Giovanni

 

 

 

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May 2020: Brevity in a Pandemic

May 4, 2020 § 2 Comments

SilvermanLet us say first that we hope you are all well, wherever you may find yourselves in the midst of this pandemic. Our latest issue has been in the works for six months, and so is not themed to our current moment, but we hope the brief essays included here will offer you solace, insight, beauty, and encouragement during this profoundly difficult time. Many thanks to our featured authors Brian Turner, Sue William Silverman, Kristine Langley Mahler, Carly Anderson, Laurie Rachkus Uttich, Sara Ryan, Tyler Mills, Julie Marie Wade, Melissa Grunow, Katy Mullins, Will Howard, Lisa Lanser Rose, Michelle Myers, Kailyn McCord, and B. Bilby Garton, and for the beautiful photography, Christina Brobby.

Plus, new in our Craft Section, Nuala O’Connor takes stock of her career and what it means to be a published writer, Beth Kephart considers the fear that no one will care about the books we write, and Jody Keisner looks at small moments and beautiful things. If you have not yet explored our extensive collection of excellent craft content, you are in for a treat.

Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy our new issue.

Still Here

April 28, 2020 § 27 Comments

By Kristen Paulson-Nguyen

I was due to receive an award at the Boston Public Library on March 21. As I was fantasizing about my 15 minutes of fame, the organizer canceled the ceremony. I felt devastated, but I’m not alone. Other writers have contended with delayed publication dates, and worse, their book tours vanishing due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The words of Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh galvanized me: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” Slowly, I’ve discovered new ways to show up.

Here are some ways to be present, for other authors and your own work, during this crisis:

  • Wave to a writer or send bouquets of hearts on Instagram during a Live gathering hosted by your favorite literary magazine.
  • Attend or hold a virtual reading.
  • Take a course. Multiple companies are offering deep discounts and scholarships and/or using courses as charitable vehicles. One editor pledged 50% of tuition to U.S. hunger-relief organization Feeding America.
  • Help someone with a book proposal.
  • Retweet others’ good news to share it with your followers. (Type “RT” at the beginning of a Tweet to indicate you’re re-posting someone else’s content.)
  • Hold your book club online. Invite your chosen book’s author to speak.
  • Shop on bookshop.org. As of April 20, Bookshop has raised $788,837.85 for local independent bookstores.
  • Invite a writer to appear on your podcast.
  • Organize a Twitter follow-back thread.
  • Compliment another writer’s work—especially somebody you don’t know.
  • Take the time to read essays online. Add a comment, a clap, a star, a thank-you.
  • Attend a virtual book launch.
  • Post a Goodreads review of a friend or stranger’s book.
  • Hold an Instagram benefit.
  • Read another writer’s first draft.
  • Encourage a less-experienced writer.
  • Thank a mentor for their support.
  • Volunteer to be a first- or second-pass reader for a local writing program.
  • Express sympathetic joy by congratulating a writer.
  • Search GoFundMe for bookstores that need help.
  • Share best practices and tips for Zoom.

The March 21 award ceremony, the BPL notified me, would now be held online on May 2. I wouldn’t get to meet judge Porsha Olayiwola as I’d hoped, but I would still read and discuss my work. I organized a Twitter follow-back for the alumni of my writing program. I kept writing at home, although my family was around more often, and my schedule now included homeschooling our 10-year-old daughter.

One early evening, my husband Vinh walked into our bedroom. I called from my supine position, “Hey, who wants to go to an Instagram Live literary reading with me?” He didn’t seem to have heard me. He went downstairs. At bedtime, Vinh, an amateur magician, returned to read Hiding the Elephant, a history of conjurers.

“Hey,” he said. “You should write a book that reveals magic secrets.”

“You wish,” I said. I know he’d like to disappear from my memoir-in-progress. We had a good laugh.

Some things, it seems, never change.

Add a link in the comments below to let the literary community know about an event or cause you cherish.

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Kristen Paulson-Nguyen is the Writing Life Editor at Hippocampus Magazine. Her work is forthcoming in The New York Times. Her flash nonfiction, “Neighbors,” won an award from Boston in 100 Words. Join her on the Boston Library’s Facebook Live May 2 to hear her read and discuss her work.

A Week of Fury

April 13, 2020 § 2 Comments

We’re furious. We’re also cooped up, quarantined, and a little freaked out. Believe it or not, we will survive. We will thrive. And yes, stories and essays and books will come from these times, just as they come from the big tragedies, the grand comedies, and the prosaic-until-you-dive-deep moments of our lives.

Editors Amy Roost and Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores have focused the natural drive to create from upheaval into a new collection of essays. Fury: Women’s Lived Experience During the Trump Era brings together a diverse community of women who reveal the impact Donald Trump’s behavior, words, and presidency have had on each of them, how each is confronting the problem, and how she is fighting back. Several Brevity bloggers have essays in the collection: Ann V. Klotz, Nina Gaby, Reema Zaman, Michele Sharpe, Melanie Brooks and Allison K Williams.

This week, some of the writers featured in the anthology will blog about how they came to write their essay and their writing process, including sidestepping professional detachment when writing about trauma, using structure to shape memories, how writing in different genres can build an essay, and what it’s like to completely re-work your essay to better fit the whole collection.

We hope you’ll enjoy this special week (and a couple of bonus posts in the next few weeks!), as well as the anthology. And we can’t wait to read the essays coming into the world this year from your own experiences—write them when you have time, when you’re ready, and know that Brevity is grateful to have you as a reader now.

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Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. Sign up for her “adventures in writing” monthly newsletter here.

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