Essays Are Outrageous Like That

April 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

amywAmy Wright, Nonfiction Editor of Zone 3 Press, speaks smartly about the essay and on her role as editor on Essay Daily.  Check out this lovely description of the essay’s heart and soul, and then click on the link below to read her full essay:

Essays are outrageous like that  … They push past the bounds of the given, overthrow the assumptions we inherited, invent new norms, like those formative late night talks in college when friends and I spent whole afternoons voicing newfound beliefs, complicating each other’s questions, deepening empathy and stirring up saucier half shells for the world that was our oyster. But gradually those wide open windows of time narrowed into panes of hours. The back porch sofas were hauled to the dump, and clean well-lighted places became working lunches. The world, though, did not stop expanding after adolescence, nor did the need to process our past and future actions close like the Rising Sun Bakery. I still needed somewhere to set my mug and seek out meaningful exchange. The essay became that folding table, a portable cafe for heart-to-hearts and battles of wit.


On Loving the Writing

October 1, 2013 § 8 Comments

By Amy Wright

amyMy recent Brevity essay, “The Bedroom that was a Beekeeper’s House” was prompted by a Cowbird “Saga.” 

Cowbird is an online community of storytellers that arose during the momentum of the Occupy movement, providing the 99% with a forum to put faces with those numbers destabilized by the economic inequality of large corporations.

The first “Saga”—as I remember it, since the themes are no longer organized chronologically—was the “Occupy Saga,” and gathered stories of confessional Wall Street “low-rung” financial advisors, Red Diaper Babies-turned grandmothers, Oakland strikers, new “Migrant Mothers” en route across country to look for work, etc.

The “Working Saga” that followed takes Studs Terkel’s idea international, collecting anecdotes from retired principals of South African schools, Mexican painters, Norwegian photographers, Kalamazoo briefcase and accessory store owners. Thus, even as the media was answering a context-driven call for connection, it was already transcending the movement, inspiring stories of separated lovers, perseverance, failure, and adversity that are timeless and global

The strength of this community, as I read it, is that Cowbirders “love” each other’s posts. The distinction between loving a piece, commenting on, retweeting, liking it, or giving it a thumbs up may seem insignificant, but I would argue makes all the difference. For, in love—unexpectedly perhaps, depending on your definition—there is much freedom.

I have loved pieces I don’t particularly like, because I admire the writer’s intention or revelation. I have loved pieces for risks the writer takes rather than literary merits I tend to favorite. And perhaps most significantly for me, knowing only love can return after publishing a post bolsters a writer for the kind of fortitude required to take on such intimate themes as the “Bedroom Saga” that inspired my Brevity piece.

I aspire to create some such haven in my classroom—however briefly—by having students read aloud 2-3 paragraphs from their essays before they turn them in. On that day, students receive only applause, praise, encouragement, for the next class period they will need to open themselves to  feedback from their peers during workshop.

Receiving criticism is not a moment in the writing process I have tended in years past. Though I have long asked students to share a section of their strongest work with their live audience, I have only recently begun to pause and linger before allowing discussion to say “Yes!”—allowing that feat to be enough (even if their 2-3 paragraphs net only three pages of their required eight). Later we will discuss suggestions for the required revision, but I want them to revel and remember reveling in having written—for only that joy will sustain the best of them to return to the page the many times it takes to crystallize meaning, image, insight, closure.

Might all writers be similarly fortunate to find readers and editors (and teachers!) to help them at every level.

My Cowbird “Bedroom Saga” piece, including a photograph of the bedroom/beekeeper’s house is online at:

Brevity 44: Just Around the Corner

September 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

(c) Joel Brouwer

(c) Joel Brouwer

Happy to announce that our September 2013 issue will be up and running next week, with fine new essays from Jill Talbot, Sejal Shah, Amy Wright, Cris Mazza, Garnett Kilberg Cohen, Mary Jones, Scott Russell Morris, Kathryn Miller, Lisa Knopp, Karen Salyer McElMurray, Kent Shaw, Sally Ashton, Tami Mohamed Brown, Paul Crensaw, and the dashingly handsome Ira Sukrungruang.

Plus craft essays from Beth Kephart, Joe Bonomo, and Chelsea Biondolillo. Also interviews with Susan Kushner Resnick and Harrison Candelaria Fletcher.

Oh, yes, and book reviews too, from Deborah Thompson and Amye Archer.

And the stunning photography of Joel Brouwer.

Stay tuned.

Not Dead Yet

August 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

800px-FuneralNew Pages has announced the death of Brevity Poetry Review and we’ve received a few questions as a result.  No, this is not us, and no, we are in no way affiliated, and yes, we are alive and strong as ever.  See you in September with a new issue, featuring:

Ira Sukrungruang, Cris Mazza, Jill Talbot, Scott Russell Morris, Mary Jones, Garnett Kilberg Cohen, Lisa Knopp, Amy Wright, Kathryn Miller, Kent Shaw, Sally Ashton, Sejal Shah, Tami Mohamed Brown, Paul Crenshaw, and Karen Salyer McElmurray

Here is the New Pages announcement:

Brevity Poetry Review Goes Under

Brevity Poetry Review has announced via email that they are closing the magazine permanently. Unfortunately, it appears as if the website and the archives no longer exist. “I offer my sincerest apologies and thank you for your understanding,” writes the editor

To Save or Purge Old Writing?

July 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

Do you hang on to old drafts, half-finished essays, bits of a scene, the way some folks collect balls of twine?  Poet/essayist/editor Amy Wright looks at the impulse to save and the urge to toss old notebooks and abandoned drafts, even published early work, purging that which is no longer vital:

What strikes me when any artist destroys or deletes some amount of his or her oeuvre is how complicated the sentiment is behind the simple gesture. It flies in the face of ambition, mocks sometimes a life’s work. But it is also tinged with enough pride to sit uneasily as a wholly noble statement. It judges what has come before as inadequate but still believes in something enough to make room for the new or to start over. Perhaps it is the practiced resurrection the mad farmer recommends in Wendell Berry’s poem. Anyway, I admire it even as I resist it.

I attribute some of my reluctance to my Appalachian upbringing. I still have my first pair of track shoes. They hang on a hook in my parents’ cabin where I use them to walk in the creek. Their traction makes them perfect for navigating slippery rocks. My mother repurposes almost everything from disposable strawberry containers to inherited boxes of odds and ends lamp parts. I am naturally inclined to save what I’ve written.

Read her full essay here.

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