Friends of Brevity, 488 and Growing

March 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

Our Friends of Brevity Facebook group has 488 members as of this morning (March 29), which means we need just an even dozen more of you fine folks to reach 500.  And then what?  Something like this:

The Year of the Fog

March 22, 2008 § Leave a comment

It is always nice to hear news of past Brevity contributors, and we’re pretty pleased to learn that Michelle Richmond, author of Curvature, way back in BREVITY Five (Summer 1999), has a new novel, and it just showed up on the NY Times Trade Paperback Bestseller list:

THE YEAR OF FOG, by Michelle Richmond. (Bantam Discovery, $12.) After the child she was watching disappears on a San Francisco beach, a woman spends an agonizing year searching for answers.

Congratulations, Michelle!

And other previous BREVITY authors — send us your news.

Peak Moments

October 19, 2007 § Leave a comment

Lisa Groen Braner wrote the Soundtrack for Brevity 25, and this meditation on brief nonfiction:

The challenge of brief nonfiction seized me first out of necessity, then out of delight.

A few years ago, in a tiny terracotta room, I wrote a book for new mothers. I set my alarm for five-thirty every day and wrote until my children woke up, usually at seven. Just enough time to sketch a 500 word essay, write a draft, or revise one. Fifty-two short essays later, a book small enough to fit in a diaper bag was born.

When your audience (and author) works all day with small children, when overtime and sleeplessness are de rigueur, brevity works. A book daunts. A single essay enchants.

Still, the challenge of brief nonfiction is the compression. Everything extraneous must fall away. Like a poet, the short nonfiction writer must distill an idea, story, or memory to reveal its peak moment. Short nonfiction that succeeds carries an epiphany or emotional punch. Like Debra S. Levy’s piece entitled “Jackpot,” when she reveals in her very last sentence the truth about her mother. Or in John Calderazzo’s “Lost on Colfax Avenue,” when he recounts his own disorientation while watching a blind man struggle to find his way.

In my lyric essay “Soundtrack,” I navigated briefer territory than usual. A lyric essay is a nonfiction subgenre between essay and poetry. It’s mosaic in form and attempts to reveal an emotional truth beyond constructed narrative. No segues or transitions. Just as songs on the radio rouse specific memories, I leap from one shard of my life to another, ending close to where I started—a memory of my father.

I began writing short nonfiction out of necessity. And now, though my children sleep through the night and go to school all day, the flexibility and creativity of the form still delight me.

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