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.”
- 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
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 Review, Harper’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.
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:
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.
Learn more to become a better ally.
“If now isn’t a good time for the truth, I don’t see when we’ll get to it.”
~ Nikki Giovanni
May 4, 2020 § 2 Comments
Let 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.
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.
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.
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.
Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. Sign up for her “adventures in writing” monthly newsletter here.
April 1, 2020 § 7 Comments
By Kim MacQueen
I’m home because we’re all home. I’m sitting on my couch, looking out the window, because we’re all sitting on our couches, looking out our windows. We’re all watching our neighbors walk their dogs, or take out their trash, then go back inside and shut the door. It feels like we’ve been here forever.
But it was only two weeks ago that I was lugging two heavy bags 2,000 miles through five different airports to the writer’s conference, trying not to freak out. When I made my rushed and distracted travel arrangements, I’d bought two different flights at two different times from two different airlines. I sort of decided, in this annoying way I sometimes have, that both flights would connect at JFK. They did not.
There was nothing to do but admit my mistake and fork over another $300 for a new trip involving three trains and five airports, that would start 18 hours earlier than planned and end 7 hours later. My trip lasted 16 hours and felt like it had been planned by a monkey.
At first I wasn’t even going to tell my husband about the travel snafu. Then I gave in because I needed to let him know that, even as he planned to drop me off at the airport at 8 am, I wasn’t going to be able to send him a “Landed safely!” text until after midnight, as my trip to Texas was now set to last longer than a recent trip that took him from New York to South Korea. He just shook his head as I fled the bedroom with my head down so I wouldn’t have to continue the conversation. If I was my own personal assistant, I would totally fire me.
So I set off on this ridiculous trip. I brought a magazine and two audiobooks and six hours of editing work and one online mindfulness course I signed up for on a whim. I didn’t do any of those things. Instead I jumped full-on into pretending this had been my idea the whole time. If you’d stopped me in any of the above-mentioned airports and asked me why I looked so tired, which luckily nobody did, I would have told you I’d actually wanted to fly this circuitous route from Vermont to New York to Chicago to San Antonio in the same day. I would have claimed I was excited to see whether I could get from JFK to Newark Airport (route: Airtrain to Long Island Railroad to Penn Station to New Jersey Transit) before passing out for lack of food.
And it kind of worked. After a couple of hours of pretending I was enjoying running through five different airports, I found I did kind of dig it. I started talking to myself in that way you do when you’re traveling alone. I watched a show on the plane where a young blonde woman who really needed a haircut, or a blowout, or something, talked about all the different wines you can pair with tater tots.
I should write something clever about this given the amount of time I’ve spent consuming tater tots and the money I’ve spent learning about wine, I told myself. You’re the one who needs a haircut, my self said back.
I did not pass out from lack of food. I had an egg salad sandwich in Newark that was more than serviceable after I pulled off the disgusting wilted lettuce, and a martini and sushi in Chicago that was perfectly fine if I ignored the glare of the awful Gate C lighting and the fact there were a few specks of somebody else’s food on my menu. The more I pretended to be interested in experiencing the people and food of five different airports, the more fun it was.
And I learned some things. I learned that most of the transit apps on my phone don’t work to actually get me anywhere. “Those apps are a pain in my you-know-what,” said a friendly Long Island Railroad guy, who then told me the train I’d been trying to get on for the last 20 minutes would take me not to Penn Station but to the site of the movie The Amityville Horror on the other end of Long Island.
I eventually got to Texas, where I did what I’m doing now in Vermont: sit on the couch and look out the window. Then my friend Anne got there from Massachusetts. She sat in the chair, because I had commandeered the couch. The next day we went to Association of Writing and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference for the few sessions we were interested in that hadn’t been cancelled by COVID19. Most of the programming we’d traveled 2,000 miles for was moved online. So.
So we had nachos and margaritas by the river at a restaurant that had been there since 1946 that is — unthinkably, horribly — closed now. We had cocktails at the longest wooden bar in Texas, watched over by a bison head the size of a Volkswagen, and the egg-and-potato tacos we had for breakfast the next morning at Patti’s Taco House II helped me deal with my hangover. We sat under a tree with fragrant purple-pink flowers in the front yard of our Airbnb and ate grocery store pizza I’d thought would be good (it wasn’t). But Anne was nice about it.
At the time I thought, this trip is totally worthwhile, just for this. Maybe not the pizza, but all the good things around the pizza. A chance to connect with people I love and admire, some for the first time in person. Time with Anne to sit in the sun; time to hang out if just for a minute with all the people who served me at those airports and restaurants. I got to see them and talk with them and eat their food. I so hope they’re okay.
Now I’m back on the couch in Vermont. Enough time has passed that I now feel lucky I didn’t become infected or infect anyone else. A trip like the one I just took is unthinkable now. And good, because the way I set it up was super dumb. And not good at all, because without that trip I would have missed all that life-sustaining connection through writing and food and just knocking around Texas together, buying bad pizza and trying to figure out where to park the rental car. In the end, I still have my window and my couch. And I can talk to my friends online. I’m grateful for them.
Kim MacQueen teaches writing and publishing at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University and has published two impossible-to-find novels. Come and visit on kimmacqueen.com.
Kim MacQueen teaches writing and publishing at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She has published two impossible-to-find novels. Come and visit on kimmacqueen.com.
March 27, 2020 § 9 Comments
By Victoria Buitron
In October 2019, I became one of the readers for Brevity’s special “Experiences of Disability” issue. I was excited to be a part of the team, and it drove me to write an essay about living with a chronic illness for my MFA thesis. It has been a privilege to read the assigned essays, and I am continuously in awe at the resilience and creativity fellow writers can find in the depths of pain. It somehow seems wholly apt and an act of masochism to be reading submissions now, when a form of collective pain has enveloped the world due to COVID-19. I’ve experienced two conflicting feelings while reading submissions the last few weeks. First, I’m proud to be a reader because I know how difficult it is for people to share their lived experiences with disabilities and illnesses, especially when my diagnosis didn’t arrive until I was nearly thirty. Second, at times there has been an unfettered desire to throw my laptop across the room because my pain, coupled with others’ pain, has become unbearable.
Since COVID-19 took over, its resulting grief hasn’t allowed me to concentrate or analyze submissions for the special issue. I have opened up Submittable, arrived at an essay, read the first paragraph, and then closed the tab. Waves of guilt have overcome me because writers are sharing the hardest moments of their lives and I can’t even will myself to read them. Snap out of it, I’ve told myself. I hadn’t realized that lack of concentration and ineptitude were some of the symptoms of a pandemic until I went on social media and saw writers who I admire confess they’ve felt the same way. A few days ago, I teetered on the idea of sending an email to the special issue’s managing editor explaining I wasn’t in the right mindset to continue reading.
Before I could send that email, I had a conversation with my brother, who at 24 was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery this past January. He has been too chipper since then, and his anxiety seems nonexistent while my mental health has been imploding.
“Why are you being so positive throughout this whole thing?” I asked him.
“Well, I lost my job in December, I had surgery in January, they confirmed it was a malignant tumor in February, and now a worldwide pandemic in March. My reasoning is it can only get better from here,” he said. I shouldn’t have cackled when he said this, but I did.
As the days have passed since our conversation, the only reason I have been able to go back to reading essay submissions about disability and illness is because of him. If he can envision a future, why can’t I? If he can make Instagram challenges during the pandemic, why can’t I? If he can read the book Room to Dream by David Lynch, sitting in the front yard while the sun sparkles on his jet-black hair and I stare at him from the window—thankful that it’s only stage one cancer—why can’t I read too? If he can write a script while being forced to stay put because even venturing to the pharmacy is strictly prohibited for him, why can’t I sit down and read for Brevity?
So, on a gloomy March day, I once again started to write and read essays about pain, because I figure we don’t just overcome viruses, and cancer, and grief, and unemployment, we fight through them.
No one knows how the world will look or feel like in September 2020, the tentative month the Experiences of Disability issue will go live. COVID-19 has already altered our lives and converted our shelter-in-place realities into the Twilight Zone, but I am certain Brevity will be there for us, just like it has been for more than twenty years. What I do recommend, especially if you are overwhelmed with grief or uncertainty when this issue goes live, is to treat every essay like a daily snack. This is the reading tactic I’ve now been implementing for the March submissions. Some weeks I’ve been assigned twenty essays or more, and I limit the intake each day or else my mental health wanes. Some days I’ve stopped reading altogether, until I feel ready to dive back in.
The essays in this upcoming issue will be imperative, more so in the midst of an era when the world has partly been brought to a halt due to a virus. I hope to send my brother the link to the issue, and thank him for allowing some of his courage to rub off on me when I felt like giving up.
The issue will be there for you to read when you’re ready, whenever that may be.
Victoria Buitron is a dual citizen of Ecuador and the United States. She is a translator and writer based in Connecticut and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy, The Bare Life Review, Brevity Blog and more. Find her on Twitter @kikitraveler30.