Diagram Wants Unruly Beast Essays

October 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Things we like: essays.  Places we like: The journal Diagram.  Discuss:

DIAGRAM’s yearly Essay Contest encourages submissions of essays—essays in an expansive sense, meaning essay as experiment, essay as heterogenous and sometimes strange or unruly beast. The Essay Contest deadline for 2012 is October 31, 2012. This is the deadline for receipt of submissions.

We invite your submissions of unpublished (in a serial/book or on a non-personal website—blogs etc. are okay) essays. (“Unpublished” means you must be able to assign us first serial rights, if your work is selected.)

To enter: Get us your essay entry of up to 10,000 words with a $15 reading fee by Oct 31, 2011.

The prize is $1000 + publication. This contest is judged by Nicole Walker and Ander Monson. We’ll shoot for publishing several of our finalists with the winner in DIAGRAM, as we have the last few years.

FAQ stuff:

  • We prefer our entries electronic (if possible), with the manuscript itself anonymous. A removable cover page would be ideal if you send hardcopy. If you send electronically no cover page is necessary; just don’t put your name on the manuscript.
  • Anyone with more than a casual relationship with either of the judges is ineligible (though we’re happy to read your work via regular submissions). Sorry lovers, former lovers, friends, students, mentors, and so on.
  • Images are fine as long as you have or can get rights to print/reprint (or if they are in the public domain) if selected.
  • We don’t have any particular aesthetic biases for this contest other than the name: we are looking for works of nonfiction that essay interestingly–however you’d like to define. That’s a pretty open definition, we admit.
  • If you’re sending something multimedia sometimes it’s easier to send snail mail if the file is too big (or unwieldy). The submission manager system only accepts files less than 10 megabytes or so. (Remember when that was a crazy size for a file?)
  • Multiple submissions are fine. Simultaneous submissions are fine as long as you notify us as soon if an essay is no longer available. In which case, congratulations on getting it published! Then you can withdraw your submission manually from the submissions manager if you sent it electronically, or email us below.
  • We read everything for contests anonymously, ethically, and rigorously.
  • We expect to notify finalists and winners in February 2012 or before. Thanks for entering! And good luck. Questions can go to nmp–atsymbol–thediagram–dot–com.
  • Multiple authors are fine, if a little weird.

The Funky Defuncty Needs Your Work

October 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

The good folks at Defunct are looking for well-crafted essays, and they are looking for you to write them:
DEFUNCT publishes essays of 2000 words or less on everything that’s had its day.  We’re not a repository for nostalgia, but rather a glance over the collective shoulder at what’s gone by.  Sometimes the essays are elegiac, sometimes ironic, sometimes form-busting, sometimes traditional.
DEFUNCT  has received a good deal of attention over the past several years.  For instance, Ander Monson’s essay, “Long Live the Jart,” was named one of the Top 100 Journalistic pieces of 2010 by the Atlantic.  You can read it here:
We have consistently tried to publish the best work on Defunct-ness from around the world and have had many fine contributors, both well-known and emerging.  Among our contributors are Lia Purpura, Joe Wenderoth, David Shields, Dinty W. Moore, Paul Collins, Judith Kitchen, Sven Birkerts, Elizabeth Kadetsky, Ryan Van Meter, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Bonnie Rough, Ron Tanner, Sue Silverman, Jessica Handler, Alfred Corn, Sonya Huber, Margot Singer, Dinah Lenney, Kerry Howley, Lawrence Sutin, Joe Bonomo, Marion Winik, John Michael Rivera, Roxane Gay, Angelo Lacuesta, Inara Verzemnieks, Lisa Teasley, Kevin Haworth, Daniel Nester, and many others.
We’re currently a bit low on submissions and have had to delay the publication of our Autumn issue as a result, so we’d be grateful if you might consider submitting an essay to us.  If you’re unfamiliar with the journal, please take a look at it: defunctmag.com.  If you’ve submitted before and we’ve published you, please consider submitting again.  If you’ve submitted before and we were unable to use your essay, we apologize and hope you’ll try us again.

Submit here.


2012 Barthelme Short Prose Prize

July 24, 2012 § 1 Comment


Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2012 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. The contest is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will also appear in issue 25.2, due out in April 2013, and all entries will be considered for paid publication on our website.

This year’s contest will be judged by Ander Monson, the author of a number of paraphernalia, including a website, a decoder wheel, several chapbooks, as well as five books, most recently Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir (Graywolf Press, 2010) and The Available World (Sarabande Books, 2010). He lives in Tucson where he teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona and edits the journal DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press.

Entries are due September 1, 2012. All entrants receive a free one-year subscription to Gulf Coast with their $17 entry fee.

Gulf Coast will accept submissions both via our online submissions manager and via postal mail.  Visit www.gulfcoastmag.org/contests for more information, or to read last year’s winning pieces, chosen by Sarah Manguso. 


Brevity’s New Issue, New Look

May 16, 2012 § 3 Comments

We’ve launched our new issue, with our new web design and nifty functionality.  Also, sixteen sharp new flash essays, including work from Ander Monson, Patrick Rosal, Sean Prentiss, Jennifer Sinor, Gary Percesepe and a host of other fine writers.  The artwork for this issue comes from the enchanted pen of Marc Snyder.

We also have book reviews of Kelle Groome’s I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, Julie Marie Wade’s Small Fires, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and Rosamond Bernier’s Some of My Lives.

In our Craft section, Tabitha Blankenbiller explores the difference between an MFA thesis and a book, Tarn Wilson explores the pitfalls of writing about family, and  Christin Geall interviews Kim Dana Kupperman.

Come and explore.

Ander Monson on Truth and Suspension

March 21, 2012 § 4 Comments

Ander Monson, essayist, diagrammatic virtuoso, bearded-one, weighs in on the fact-shifting debate with his customary fresh take and refusal to settle on a binary (true/not true) approach.  Well worth the read both for Monson’s views on D’Agata”s choices and possible motives, but also for Monson’s overall discussion of the essay form. Here’s an excerpt, followed by the link:

In an interview, David Foster Wallace makes the argument that “[t]he reader’s pre-suspension of disbelief gives nonfiction a particular kind of power, but it also seems to encumber the nonfiction with a kind of moral obligation fiction doesn’t have.” To me that’s part of the trouble: it seems to me that as readers we do, contra DFW, still get/have to choose to suspend our disbelief in nonfiction — these days at least; or any days, really. Art requires that suspension. That’s the thrill of it. In fact, that’s what we desire most deeply as readers, offering ourselves up, our brains up, as willing vessels for the (simulated) mind (in the case of the essay — which is the closest we can currently get to a simulated brain) of the writer, because we want to be possessed. We need it. Not completely, of course, particularly in texts that aspire to art — we want to do some work as readers, too. We’re not dumb. We tell ourselves we’re not dumb.

But that’s what makes us angry when we hear about confabulation in works of apparent nonfiction, even as the deep satisfaction we may take in the artifice of the book (until it is exposed) moves us greatly. It’s as if we are angry in proportion to how deeply we allowed ourselves to be possessed by a book or an essay. We are angry at ourselves, and we project this onto the author.

Maybe instead of ceding to the anger, let’s try not to be so utterly credulous and admit that there’s some space between these two positions — true believer and total skeptic — that we’ve been offered.

Monson’s Full Essay Can Be Read Here

So Much More Self There: Ander Monson on Truth in Nonfiction

May 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Writer/Rose Metal editor Kathleen Rooney interviewed Ander Monson in Redivider some years ago, but we just ran across it this morning, and the interview is a fine one indeed. Monson never fails to be interesting, and Rooney keeps the questions sharp and focused.  Here, she asks, “Why does ‘truth’ matter in creative non-fiction? How does it matter? Does it matter?”

AM: It matters because readers feel like it matters. It matters because James Frey got bitch-slapped on national television, because JT LeRoy got sued. It matters because your dad doesn’t really want to show up in your essay. It matters because it’s harder for writers (or, well, me) to write nonfiction, or that it should be for all of us, because there’s so much more self there (especially in essay, and in memoir, don’t even get me started; perhaps we should just stop writing memoirs unless we are ready to sever most of our relationships with the people we write about). And because nonfiction comes without the shroud of invulnerability that fiction implies. The essay or the nonfiction book is about real people. It has claims on factual truth that nothing else does. And the people who show up in my, or anyone’s, nonfiction can track me down and tell me what they think. And they will.

The entire interview can be found right here: —Ander Monson, interviewed by Kathleen Rooney for Redivider

Ander Monson on Mary Ruefle

February 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

… a short post on the essay, erasure, the brain on the page, & the brilliant Mary Ruefle.

First your life is erased, then you are erased. Don’t tell me that erasure is beside the point, an artsy fragment of the healthy whole. If it is an appropriation, it is an appropriation of every life that has preceded your own, just as those in the future will appropriate yours; they will appropriate your very needs, your desires, your gestures, your questions, and your words.

Ander, as always, is well worth the read.

AWP 2011 / To Tell You the Truth: Strategies in New Nonfiction

February 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Another report from guest blogger Margaret Kimball, reporting on the panel To Tell You the Truth: Strategies in New Nonfiction at the most recent AWP Conference:

I just left a panel featuring the writers Stephen Elliott, Nick Flynn and Ander Monson, introduced by Graywolf editor, Jeffrey Shotts. Eula Biss, notably the only woman scheduled to speak at the panel, was snowed in in Chicago, alas. Here are my notes, by author.

Introduction (Jeffrey Shotts)
Nonfiction moves beyond reportage into the territory of tangents, dead-ends, errancy and wonder. Just because an essay is pursuing something, doesn’t mean what it’s arrived at is what it’s gained; the form is an alternative to judgment. A question we need to ask ourselves is: do we read nonfiction to experience art or to learn information? An essay, an illustration, a design is fixed in time and space and artifact; the essay is thinking, frozen. A virtual space the viewer/reader can inhabit for a while.

Stephen Elliott
Strategy, part of the title of the panel, implies we as creatives know where we’re going; but strategy only enters the process after the thing is written or made. A filter is a critical utility in order to determine feedback that is helpful from that which isn’t. This relates to aesthetic vision; without a personal vision, you cannot write, cannot make. There are three reasons a person will read a memoir:

  1. Perfect/beautiful/really nice sentences.
  2. Tension.
    This is built while maintaining story and character and narrative. Themes that digress from the narrative can only emerge if enough tension is built. The self is the thing around which the tension and everything else exists.
  3. Honesty.
    This is not about not lying. Lying requires intent but honesty is bordered by self-knowledge…in order to write honestly, you have to evaluate yourself intensely, honestly.

The reader is the most important person, needs to be the first concern of the author. By making characters singular (e.g. only good or only bad), you’re hiding something from the reader. By worrying about someone’s feelings, you’re putting something ahead of the reader. This cannot happen.

Stephen ended gloriously, “I don’t know. I just came up with this.”

Nick Flynn
People hear what they want to hear. They project their needs and desires and lives onto your work. So one of our functions is to create a screen that others can project onto in order to make meaning from their experiences. We are not writing from the soul; instead, we need to uncover our deeper purpose. Why do we cling to the stories we’ve told ourselves? What is behind them? What do the stories hide? The stories are important only as a threshold to cross. Here is the formula (to which he then said, a la Van Wilder, “Write this down.”:

  1. Hear the stories you tell yourself about yourself. The stories you always tell.
  2. Start with a random image and discover its meaning.
  3. Ask yourself what you think you know and how long you’ve known it.
  4. Let the story lose its thread and push further into the unknown.
  5. The point where language breaks down is a useful edge, revealing to us the space between the familiar and the unknown.

The story (the essay, the book) is not about what happens to us but how we perceive what happens to us. The process of writing is more about what we don’t know, is more about discovering the hidden pattern beneath the world. Something happened; some things actually do happen. We need to come up against the reality of the world and perceive them.

Ander Monson
Essays are technologies are designed to handle infinity; they expand and allow us to expand into them, outward from them. They chip away at the stability of the self. What is interesting is the limitless; what is interesting are the limits. The interiors of our brains are the most readily available infinities. Look at Billy Idol’s album, Cyberpunk, album cover which came with a floppy disc and instructions to use with a color Macintosh. 1993.

This is a document of what we thought at one point the future might have been. In other words, this is a document of the way Idol’s brain worked at one point in time; it’s a mind we can enter into. The essay-the text, the form and the white space-are places to study, to imagine, to illuminate the dark spaces of our minds. Through essays we illuminate the world around us, editing it down so facts and ideas get their own tiny spotlights.

From the Q & A
What are other ways to think about tension?

  • Tension can be generated by: waiting for something to happen; between two people in a room (keep them in the room together as long as possible); syntax/diction; the tension between the unknown and the known and how it gets discovered; tension emerging from subject-switching and disconnection.

Any new mediums you’re using?

  • The website for Vanishing Point is used to interact with the text, to undercut what’s happening in the book. There’s a critical element of play important [to the process of discovery]. The web pages constantly erode/modify/self-edit the original; in this way, the web is a performance. (Monson)
  • The written word can be as fluid as the stuff on the web. It can contain a kind of archive of information uncontainable in the book . (Flynn)
  • The Rumpus is a space in which creative energy is spent in writing emails. We pass along information (about the self, about the world) this way. As writers, we have a smaller audience but create deeper connections with them. That’s what this is about. (Elliott)

AWP Nonfiction Cheat Sheet: Friday Morning

January 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Really, when are we supposed to breathe?

Friday 9 to 10:15 am

Harding Room

Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

F105. Pedagogy Forum Session: Nonfiction. This session is designed to give contributors to the 2011 Pedagogy Forum an opportunity to discuss their work, though all are welcome. The papers themselves will provide a framework to begin in-depth discussion in  creative writing, pedagogy, and theory. A pedagogy speaker will contextualize the discussion with some brief remarks before attendees break out into small discussion groups. These groups will be facilitated by trained pedagogy paper contributors.

Virginia B Room

Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

F113. Where Science and Justice Meet: The Necessity of Environmental Writing. (Nancy Lord, David Gessner, Gretchen Legler, Kathleen Dean Moore, Catherine Reid, John Calderazzo) Beset by global warming, habitat loss, and industrial waste and pollution, today’s “natural world” demands more than observation and reverence from writers. This panel of established nature and environmental writers will explore the need for scientific accuracy, political acumen, the pursuit of social justice, and at least occasional humor in shaping literary responses to environmental threats and change.

Friday 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Thurgood Marshall East Room

Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

F128. Women on Wanderlust: Travel Writing. (Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Elisabeth Eaves, Alison Stein Wellner, Johanna Gohmann) Contributors of Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 will debate the role gender plays in their trade. What safety precautions do they take on their solo expeditions? Have they ever used their perceived vulnerability to their advantage? After exploring the ways gender can impact a journey, they will reflect on how it influences prose. Is there a feminine style of travel writing? What is the market like post-Eat, Pray, Love, and how can new writers break into the field?

Wilson A, B, & C Room

Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

F134. To Tell You the Truth: Strategies in the New Nonfiction. (Jeffrey Shotts, Nick Flynn, Eula Biss, Ander Monson, Stephen Elliott) Creative nonfiction has never been more exciting, as writers from multiple genres explore and define new modes of writing essay, memoir, journalism, and cultural criticism. Four writers at the forefront of the new nonfiction discuss strategies for writing and reading these new forms of “truth-telling.”

Diagram Hybrid Deadline Approaching Fast

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Diagram’s Hybrid Essay Contest deadline for 2010 is just two days away: October 29, 2010.

From Diagram:

“It seems like everything is hybrid these days—from the term creative nonfiction to the very nature of the essay. Yet, yet. Yet. As part of a push to better represent odder and more evidently hybrid pieces of nonfiction, DIAGRAM runs this Hybrid Essay Contest every fall. Following our continued interest in reinvented, unusual literature, a contest for an unpublished (in a serial/book or on a non-personal website—blogs etc. are fine) hybrid essay. Unpublished means you must be able to give us, if your work is selected, first serial rights.  To enter: Get us your unpublished essay (definition here is a bit loose on purpose) of up to 10,000 words with a $15 reading fee by October 29, 2010. The prize is $1000 + publication. This contest is judged by the great Nicole Walker and the okay Ander Monson. We’ll shoot for publishing several of our finalists with the winner in DIAGRAM, as we have the last two years.” More Here at Diagram

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