Brevity’s 2018 Pushcart and Best American Nominees

November 12, 2018 § 5 Comments

ppWe are proud to announce our nominees for the 2018 Pushcart Prize anthology and Best American Essays.  The choice wasn’t easy in any way, because we’ve once again been blessed with so many talented writers and outstanding essays, but we’ve narrowed it down and sent off our nomination packets to the editors of the Pushcart and BAE anthologies. You can read the nominated essays by following the links just below. Congratulations everyone, and thanks to everyone for sending us your stellar work.

Our 2018 Pushcart nominees:

Solving for X

Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

Women These Days

The Farmers’ Almanac Best Days for Breeding

Ace of Spades

The Cremation


BAEOur 2018 Best American Essays nominees:

The six essays listed above, as well as:



What I Took


Assay’s Year of Best American Essays

March 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

86From our friends at Assay:

At Assay, we’ve dubbed Year 3 “Year of Best American Essays.” Our intrepid assistant editor Nick Nelson, who’s been with us since the beginning, has been working to make the reprints and Notables of Best American Essays into a searchable form, and his project will be released in the next several months. He started the project in the fall of 2014, before Assay published its first issue, and the scope has grown considerably as he has pursued it. The project is truly exciting, a wonderful and useful piece of work for our genre, and we are thrilled to share it with the world. Stay tuned for the release date.

2016 is the 30th anniversary of the Best American Essays series and we can’t think of a better gift than attention paid to this institution that forms so much of who we are as a genre. Essay Daily started things off so well with their Advent project in December–and if you haven’t checked it out, you’ll want to. Best American Essays, as a literary series and foundational element of our genre, is such a rich source of conversation. As we also celebrate BAE’s anniversary and Nick’s project, we will devote a section of the magazine in both 3.1 (Fall 2016) and 3.2 (Spring 2017) to interrogating BAE as the standard-bearer of the genre, the pedagogy of teaching with it, analysis of individual pieces, and any other place creativity strikes.

We’re looking for full scholarly articles, we’re looking for informal discussions, we’re looking for pedagogical theory, lesson plans, assignments, and more. The introductions to BAE have long been considered the beginnings of nonfiction theory–where does that put us as a genre? If you’re not sure what you’re working on is something we’d be interested in, please ask us!

We continue to read and accept general submissions, so even if your current work isn’t on BAE, we’d love to see it. Deadline for full consideration for the fall issue is May 1, 2016; deadline for the Spring 2017 issue is December 1, 2016Click here for the link to the full guidelines.

Consider the Fourth State of the White Album

October 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

Robert Atwan has assembled a list of the top ten essays since 1950 for Publisher’s Weekly to mark the release of The Best American Essays 2012.  Is it exactly the list we would have assembled? No, because we would have picked seven Brevity essays and then Baldwin, Didion, and perhaps Lopate, but that’s just hometown pride. In truth, Atwan has done a remarkable job, and the list is a great place to start a discussion, or even a class.

In addition to the useful list, Atwan gives us a brief explanation of why the essays matters. Here he is on Baldwin, followed by a link to the entire article:

James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son” (originally appeared in Harper’s, 1955)

“I had never thought of myself as an essayist,” wrote James Baldwin, who was finishing his novel Giovanni’s Room while he worked on what would become one of the great American essays. Against a violent historical background, Baldwin recalls his deeply troubled relationship with his father and explores his growing awareness of himself as a black American. Some today may question the relevance of the essay in our brave new “post-racial” world, though Baldwin considered the essay still relevant in 1984 and, had he lived to see it, the election of Barak Obama may not have changed his mind. However you view the racial politics, the prose is undeniably hypnotic, beautifully modulated and yet full of urgency. Langston Hughes nailed it when he described Baldwin’s “illuminating intensity.” The essay was collected in Notes of a Native Son courageously (at the time) published by Beacon Press in 1955.

Atwan’s Full Top Ten List.

Upcoming Event: In Praise of the Essay/Practice & Form

September 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

James M. Chesbro, editorial assistant at Welcome Table Press, guest-blogs about the upcoming one-day symposium In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form:

During my first semester as an adjunct professor, before I introduced the subject of personal essay to a group of Literature and Composition students, I reread Innovations in Teaching the Essay, a collection of panel discussions given last year at a one-day symposium called In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form. The symposium, launched in 2010 by Welcome Table Press, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and publishing the essay, is a meeting place for writers to celebrate and discuss a genre that, as a creative form, often takes a back seat to fiction and poetry. The talks given that afternoon and memorialized on the Welcome Table Press website provided me with the insight and wisdom I needed to walk into the classroom feeling confident that I could teach my students how to understand the essay in a new and exciting way.

Last year’s symposium didn’t only help me understand the myriad ways one can teach the essay. It also helped me recognize exactly what it means to be an essayist these days, when the line between fact and fiction is sometimes blurred. Robert Atwan, series editor of The Best American Essays and keynote speaker at the 2010 symposium, argued that E. B. White was more literary writer than newspaper reporter. “In today’s fact-checking environment,” he said, “it’s easy to forget that the personal essay is a literary form, not a signed affidavit.” Jerald Walker, author of Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption, backed up that point when he admitted that he was “haunted by a recurrent dream in which an exhaustive investigation uncovers that [he is] not a forty-six-year-old black male who was raised in Chicago’s inner-city, but rather an eighty-three-year-old white woman from Hot Springs, Montana.” And so, he continued, these are hostile times for writers of literary nonfiction, and I would have to agree. Which is precisely why essayists need both Welcome Table Press and this symposium, where we can share, discuss, ask questions, and learn from some of the best in the business.

This year’s symposium will be held on Saturday, October 15, at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. Phillip Lopate, who is considered by many one of the most important essayists of our time, will be in attendance as honoree. Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, Helen Benedict, Joshua Wolf Shenk, and Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (creators of Idiots’ Books) will discuss practice, form, and other matters of craft. And once again, a panel on innovations in teaching the essay will take place, this time with Richard Hoffman, Patrick Madden, Suzanne Menghraj, Robert Root, Suzanne Strempek Shea, and Dustin Beall Smith. A Q&A with editors from The Best American Essays, Creative Nonfiction, Defunct, Fourth Genre, Graywolf Press, The Pedestrian, River Teeth, and Sarabande Books will finish the day.

Consider joining us at Fordham University, in New York City, on October 15, 2011. In these hostile times, a little praise for the essay is in order.

 Click here to download the registration form.

 Click here to download all of the panel discussions from the inaugural symposium, for free.

James M. Chesbro is editorial assistant at Welcome Table Press. His essays appear in Connecticut Review and The Upper East Side Magazine. He is an MFA candidate at Fairfield University.


No Female Writers Need Apply

June 1, 2011 § 16 Comments

Not The Best Essayists, Apparently

The folks at VIDA have given us in-depth numbers regarding the large gender imbalance in the Best American series, especially Best American Essays:

In the Best American Essays Series from 1986 through 2010, the numbers look dire across the board. Works by women accounted for only 29% of those published in the anthology. There was only one year in twenty-five that the number of works by women published in the anthology outnumbered the works by men.

It seems that even during those years that women were guest editors, female nonfictionists were poorly represented.  The one exception seems to be the year Joyce Carol Oates made the picks.

Go here for in-depth statistics:



Best American Essays 2010

September 29, 2010 § 10 Comments

The folks at Essay Daily have been nice enough to post the table of contents of Best American Essays 2010 for those of us still waiting for our copies to arrive. So here goes:

Elif Batuman- The Murder of Leo Tolstoy (Harper’s)

Toni Bentley- The Bad Lion (NY Review of Books)

Jane Churchon- The Dead Book (The Sun)

Brian Doyle- Irreconcilable Dissonance (Oregon Humanities)

John Gamel- The Elegant Eyeball (Alaska Quarterly Review)

Walter Isaacson- How Einstein Divided America’s Jews (The Atlantic)

Steven L. Isenberg- Lunching on Olympus (The American Scholar)

Jane Kramer- Me, Myself, and I (The New Yorker)

Arthur Krystal- When Writers Speak (NY Times Book Review)

Matt Labash- A Rake’s Progress (The Weekly Standard)

Phillip Lopate- Brooklyn the Unknowable (Harvard Review)

Ian McEwan- On John Updike (NY Review of Books)

Steven Pinker- My Genome, My Self (NY Times Magazine)

Ron Rindo- Gyromancy (Gettysburg Review)

David Sedaris- Guy Walks into a Bar Car (New Yorker)

Zadie Smith- Speaking in Tongues (NY Review of Books)

S. Frederick Starr- Rediscovering Central Asia (Wilson Quarterly)

John H. Summers- Gettysburg Regress (The New Republic)

John Edgar Wideman- Fatheralong (Harper’s)

Garry Wills- Daredevil (The Atlantic)

James Wood- A Fine Range (The New Yorker)

via Essay Daily: Not Really So Daily: Best American Essays 2010 Table of Contents.

How About that Best American?

October 21, 2009 § 1 Comment

In our effort to seem young and jazzy, the Brevity editorial team hangs out on Facebook way too much.  Along the way though, we noticed that former Mid-American Review nonfiction editor Karen Babine had posted a thoughtful, personal reaction to the latest Best  American Essays volume, edited by Mary Oliver.  We like her enthusiasm (as a reader and a teacher) toward the BAE series, so we asked Karen if we could post her Facebook review to Brevity as a bonus between-issues book review, and we did, and we hope to spark some discussion here.  If you want to comment, go ahead and comment here, or if you have your own review of BAE 2009, send it to us for the blog.

Here’s an excerpt from Karen’s full review:

When my 2009 Best American Essays arrived and it was only half the thickness of my Best American Travel Writing, I frowned at it. What is this? Where’s the rest of my book? But I sat down on the couch with it and my highlighter and did what I always do: I flip to the back and check out the Notables, because this is where I think the neat stuff is happening. I highlight people I know or magazines I really like. My highlight was back in 2003, when my brother-in-all-but-blood Matt had an essay in the Notables. This time around, there were quite a few names I recognized and that thrills me as much as anything else about my BAE.

Here’s my overall impression of this collection: well done. I’ve got a fairly specific aesthetic, one that likes to see essays not only work through an idea, but I want to be able to see the author’s brain on the page working through the idea. But there has to be more than that. I want the author’s work to illuminate some other area that I didn’t expect, something that’s at stake for me as the reader.  And I want language. Too many of the essays I’ve seen in past years have completely neglected the language.

Karen goes on to discuss specific BAE essays by Brian Doyle, Sue Allison, Richard Rodriguez, Jill McCorkle, Gregory Orr, and Janna Malamud Smith.  We really think the full review is worth reading, with Best American Essays 2009 at your side.

Is the Essay Dead?

December 4, 2007 § 1 Comment

I don’t really agree with a lot of what Christina Nehring has to say in her recent anti-essay rant, but I am intrigued by this:

The problem, of course, is not merely our essayists; it’s our culture. We have grown terribly—if somewhat hypocritically—weary of larger truths. The smarter and more intellectual we count ourselves, the more adamantly we insist that there is no such thing as truth, no such thing as general human experience, that everything is plural and relative and therefore undiscussable.

Well, yes! I actually do agree here.

And the rant is worth a read, even if only to define where and when you think she is over-stating .

— Dinty

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