The Power of Listening to What Your Practice Demands

January 6, 2017 § 16 Comments

franz.pngby Beth Franz

“What do you want to achieve by sending your work out?” Allison K Williams asks this of us in her book, Get Published in Literary Magazines, offering three possibilities for consideration: publication (the reward of seeing your name in print), payment (the reward of money in your pocket), and prestige (the reward of being “taken seriously” by virtue of having made it into a publication of some repute).  As Williams explains, “Thinking about your ultimate big-picture goal helps you choose where to submit.”

I struggled to make it past Williams’s three choices, none of which seemed to quite fit my situation.  Even now, my mind continues to search for my answer to that important question: “What do you want?”  (To make things a little more challenging for myself, I decided to stay with Williams’s preoccupation with the letter P.)  Here are the answers I’ve arrived at:

  • Participation – While writing has always been (and will always be) a way for me to “see” what I am trying to “see,” I want more than that now. I want to find a way to participate in the conversations I see going on around me.  I feel as though I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for years – decades, now – watching the other children around me jumping rope, double Dutch to be specific.  I’ve been studying when children jump in, how they jump in, how they stay in there, when and how they jump out.  I want to take my turn.  I want to jump in.
  • Put it out there! – Of course, in order to participate, I have to first find the courage needed to do so. That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?  The longer one waits to take one’s turn when it comes to just jumping in there, the scarier the prospect becomes.  I didn’t know that.  For the longest time, I believed that waiting was making me more prepared.  Perhaps it was . . . to a point.  But there came a point– maybe it was 10 years ago, maybe it was 20 or 30 years ago – a point beyond which the waiting only led to diminishing returns, for I eventually lost my courage to jump in there at all!  To make matters worse, instead of jumping in back in the 1980s or 1990s, when publishing involved primarily printed materials, I kept waiting.  And while I waited, the world changed around me.  I find myself in a new world today, when any piece that is put out there is subject to being responded to right away, in this digital age we now live in, making me even more hesitant to take a position on anything, for fear of the avalanche of responses my writing might trigger!  I have become paralyzed with this fear.  Or, equally paralyzing, I encounter a much more powerful piece that’s already out there, beside which my measly piece pales.  And again, I lose my courage.  I want to find my courage.  I know that the only way I can do that is to put out there what I have, warts and all.
  • Practice – I have long viewed writing as a practice, something that I engage in the way others engage in prayer or meditation or physical exercise. It is a “practice” in that the doing of it is its own reward.  And as is the case with prayer or meditation or physical exercise, the practice of writing also offers collateral benefits that spill over into real life, altering the way I go about the rest of the day’s activities.  But my son has recently made me aware of a facet of “practice” I was not aware of.

My son, who was born a full decade and a half after I started my practice as a writer and who will soon turn 23 is a practicing personal trainer.  He spent four years in college learning about how the body works and what people can do to increase their physical well being.  He recently explained to me that because of the body’s ability to “adapt” to what it is being called on to do, it is important to regularly “adjust” one’s workout.  Otherwise, the body – in its wisdom – adapts so well to what the muscles are being asked to do that they no longer benefit in the same way.  It is as though the body is “too smart for its own good.”  That’s where the personal trainer can help.

My son’s words got me to thinking.  A lot has been written about the practice of writing.  I have been a disciple of both Natalie Goldberg’s “The Rules of Writing Practice” and Julia Cameron’s “The Morning Pages” at different times over the last several decades.  There have even been times when I find myself agreeing with those who claim that the best practice is NOT one in which the writer feels obligated to write every day; rather, the best practice is the one in which the writer learns to listen, deeply, to herself:  to write when she has something to say and to stay silent when she does not.

But what my son’s words helped me realize is that the most beneficial constant in any practice is the practitioner’s willingness to be ever-changing in her approach to her practice.  The dedication has to be to the practice itself, not to the specific form the practice takes at any given time.

Just as the personal trainer must find ways to outsmart the body that knows so well how to “adapt” to the exercises it is being put through, so too must I find ways to outsmart my own writer within, who knows so well how to “play” whatever game she believes I am playing with her.  My practice demands that I find ways to participate, to put out there what writing has enabled me to “see” for myself.


Beth Franz is a practicing writer and sculptor; a parent, partner, and educator; closer to the age of 60 than she can believe.  She plans on doing everything in her power to become a published writer in 2017.

Brevity for the Eardrums

October 17, 2016 § 3 Comments


Yes, we’re proud of what we do, and we do it all for you.


Race & Gender: New Kickstarter Rewards

March 31, 2015 § 1 Comment

two spec

We are Happy to Announce New Backer Rewards!

Our Kickstarter campaign is going wonderfully, and we are touched by all the support for Brevity. It’s been going so well, that many of the premiums have already been snapped up, and so now we are bringing new ones!

We have some exciting new rewards for backers, and we are incredibly grateful to the community of writers who have donated them. Help us out, and grab yourself some of the best possible literary swag.

GENERATE SOME NEW WORK! Brevity author Chelsea Biondolillo has generously offered a seat in an upcoming generative online workshop to one of our lucky backers! The date of this is open, so if you can’t make the next one, don’t worry! From the website:

The Generative Writing workshops emphasize the production of new work. Each week an optional prompt and maximum word count will encourage you generate up to 4500 words of new nonfiction. These can be individual flash essays, a connected series of vignettes or lyric fragments, or the building blocks of a single personal essay, literary journalism feature, memoir chapter, or hybrid of one or more CNF forms. You are welcome to share your responses with the class, or not, as you choose.

Biondolillo is a frequent craft essay contributor to Brevity, as well as one of our authors. She’s a smart, thoughtful essayist and a great teacher. We think you couldn’t do better than to take this workshop, and we are grateful to her for donating this incredible prize!

GROW YOUR PLATFORM! Does the word “platform” make you shudder a little bit? Are you feeling a little gobsmacked by the way publishers increasingly expect writers to have a strong social media presence in order to market their own work? Us, too! Well, all of us but the excellent Allison Williams, our social media editor!

For a hundred dollar donation, Allison will give you two hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of social media advice, including a one-hour Skype or phone consultation on how to build your specific brand as a writer. She’s done amazing things for us—really, she’s grown our blog audience exponentially—and we think she could do wonderful things for you, too.

A SPECIAL REWARD FOR WINE LOVERS, a SIGNED copy of Brian Doyle’s THE GRAIL: A YEAR AMBLING & SHAMBLING THROUGH AN OREGON VINEYARD IN PURSUIT OF THE BEST PINOT NOIR WINE IN THE WHOLE WILD WORLD. You will also get our gratitude, your name listed on a thank you page associated with the special gender issue, and a rock solid excuse to purchase and consume numerous bottles of opulent wine with dark cherry back notes.

THERE ARE TWO OR THREE THINGS WE KNOW FOR SURE, and one of them is that Dorothy Allison regularly delivers heart-breaking, hilarious, essential stories. So we asked her to sign us some books, and she said, “Fuck yeah.” Reward yourself with a SIGNED copy of Dorothy Allison’s TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE. You will also get our gratitude, your name listed on a thank you page associated with the special gender issue, and a book that will kick you in the ass. The good way.

WE WILL ALSO BE ADDING NEW BOOKS BY BREVITY AUTHORS OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS, including work by Sonya Huber, Rebecca McClanahan, Patrick Madden, Gary Fincke, and Lori Jakiela.

You can see all of the Kickstarter campaign awards here. We are incredibly grateful for the response so far, and excited about the things will be able to do as new backers continue to join us. Thank you, all. We are deeply grateful.

This Writer is Sponsored by Herself

January 29, 2015 § 85 Comments


So I now look for partners with a job, a car, a driver’s license, and a good sense of humor.

Kelly Sundberg, Brevity‘s managing editor, responds to recent posts here and on Salon:

For almost nine years, I was married to a man who was our family’s primary source of income. During this time, I finished my undergraduate degree, had a baby, completed an MFA, and wrote the first draft of my memoir. You could say—I guess—that my then-husband sponsored me during that time. Still, although he was the primary breadwinner, I didn’t spend my days lounging around sipping mimosas in puddles of sunshine while lazily scrawling my manuscript. Things were still tough, and the day that I walked out on my marriage, I said firmly and clearly to anyone who would listen: I will never be financially dependent on my partner again.

Judging by my Facebook feed, everyone has already read Ann Bauer’s Salon article “Sponsored By My Husband: Why It’s a Problem that Writers Never Talk About Where Their Money Comes From.” I appreciated this article. As a struggling, single mother, I appreciated Bauer’s acknowledgment of her own and other writers’ privilege. I also thought she addressed quite honestly how difficult it is to make a living as a writer in today’s economy, and that writing is real work, and real labor. I think having a partner who appreciates and supports that is invaluable.

In response to her article, a slew of women responded with their own stories of how they were sponsored by their partners (I didn’t see any similar responses from men, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there). Some of these responses then started to feel unfamiliar to me. It wasn’t Bauer’s article that I struggled with. It was some of the responses that seemed, however inadvertently, to suggest that a writer should actively seek out a partner who can support them while they write.

One such response was by Allison Williams on the Brevity blog in her blog post, “A Word From My Sponsor” where she wrote, “Screening for income is no different than screening for age, height, looks, or doesn’t-post-racist-screeds-on-Facebook. Saying, ‘I’m not interested in dating anyone who can’t, if necessary, support me.’ is no different than saying ‘no kids.’ It’s a status they have some control over, based on choices they made. It’s as arbitrary as liking C-cup brunettes.”

That statement doesn’t resonate with me. I think it’s great if someone is in a loving, healthy relationship and their partner wants to support them while they write. I think it’s great if that is how the chips fall. And, obviously, everyone has the right to determine their own priorities when looking for a relationship, but we don’t necessarily have the ability to make that ideal relationship happen. One divorce later, my cynical side says that I’m better off focusing on prioritizing myself than screening my profile for men who make 100K plus.

That said, I’ll admit that, I too, have started screening my potential partners. A Tarot Card reader recently told me not to date anyone who didn’t have a job, a car, or a driver’s license. I thought to myself, “Hmm, I think I can do better than that.” So I now look for partners with a job, a car, a driver’s license, and a good sense of humor. My bar is pretty low (one friend recently told me that my bar is rolling on the floor). Who knows? Maybe my friend is right, but I don’t ask how much money potential partners make, and I don’t care. I don’t generally see relationships as transactions. I support myself.

Clearly, Bauer’s and William’s relationships are different than my marriage was. In situations like that, being sponsored by the partner seems like a healthy and rewarding situation, but I know there are a lot of women out there in relationships like mine was: relationships where sponsorship comes with strings, where sponsorship comes with control. In my case, sponsorship came with domestic abuse, and if I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I would have left sooner if I’d felt more financially capable.

Since leaving my marriage, I’ve had to hustle. I’m now a single mom, a PhD student, a teacher, the Managing Editor of Brevity, a resource editor for a website dedicated to single moms, I travel to speaking engagements where I talk about my experience with surviving domestic violence, and that’s just during the school year. In the summer, I live in the Idaho backcountry with no electricity where I work for the US Forest Service and give interpretive talks to wilderness river rafters. I’ve never seen a paycheck that I didn’t want to earn. I’ve got bills to pay and books to write. But I write. I still write. It’s not easy, but I do it, and in the midst of all of that, I’ve had an essay go viral, landed an agent, and watched my acceptance rate at Duotrope spike up to 100%. I don’t have sponsorships; I have jobs. The only person sponsoring me is me, and for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for patronage. Anyone interested in becoming my patron should contact Dinty, and he can forward you my information. (Serious inquiries only).

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