What is Brevity Looking for in the Brief Essay?

January 10, 2012 § 8 Comments

Here on the tippy-top floor of the Brevity corporate towers, we are just about fed up to our necklines with editor Dinty W. Moore, who does very little of the work yet seems happy at any moment to expound on “what we are looking for in a Brevity essay.”  His latest off-the-cuff approximation of wisdom can be found this week on the River Teeth blog.  Here is one gem from that conversation:

“You need to move in and out of scene quickly, you need to introduce language, diction, and rhythm immediately, and you need to establish place, character, and conflict right away – usually in the first sentence. “

Later he has the nerve to say this:

“I wish I knew how much work the magazine would become. I wish I’d been less of a control freak and brought in more people to help me sooner.”

Really?  The sound you hear now is twenty or so senior editorial staff members spitting out their coffee.

Somebody sit this guy down and tell him it is time to retire, will ya?



Behind the Scenes at Brevity

November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore will be at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis later this week, with a public reading Friday at 7 p.m.  The Loft’s blog featured an interview with him recently, including some thoughts about  Brevity submissions:

In addition to being a writer and professor, you edit the online journal Brevity. Can you talk about that experience? How does working as an editor impact your writing? How do you find a balance? What are you seeing too much of/not enough of in terms of submissions to the journal?

Editing a journal is both a fascinating and humbling experience. There are so many good writers out there, and I wish we had the time and space to feature all of them. But the sad fact for Brevity, and so many literary journals, is that we are a cash-strapped, time-constrained volunteer organization, so what we can do is a tiny portion of what we wish we could do. I’d love to see our magazine come out weekly, or monthly, for instance. But then I would have to let go of all of my other work, including writing, and teaching, and sleeping.

What do we see too much of? Writing that doesn’t dig down into the experience. Writing of the “look, this happened, and I’m making it into a scenic narrative” sort, without any surprise or risk being taken. Also, writing that doesn’t exercise the language. Our journal limits submissions to 750 words or less, so we want writers who make every word count.

The full interview HERE


Best American Brevity Authors

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

We were a bit late getting our copy of Best American Essays 2011 because the donkey mail cart got stuck in the mud outside of Coolville, but we have it now, and are pleased to see so many Brevity authors represented. Steven Church’s brilliant essay on sound, “Auscultation,” made the front of the book alongside Lia Purpura’s meditation on changing land, “There are Things Awry Here.”  A joyful number of Brevity authors made the Notable section in the back as well, including Marcia Aldrich, Susanne Antonetta, Joe Bonomo, Barrie Jean Borich, Brian Doyle, Gary Fincke, Kim Dana Kupperman, Margaret MacInnis, Patrick Madden, Lee Martin, Dinty W. Moore (Brevity‘s founding editor), Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Anne Panning, Joel Peckham and Ira Sukrungruang.  We keep good company, we think.

The Art of Being Concise

September 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore is interviewed by Pubmission’s Megan Lobsinger, who asks:

LOBSINGER: Were one to substitute the word “paragraph” for “camera” in the (following) quote, this quote would match the mission of Brevity. Can you tell us a little bit about Brevity, and also say whether or not I’m right?

“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to ‘give a meaning’ to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.” – Bresson

MOORE: We talk a lot about concision, precision, density of language, the importance of intimate detail when choosing the very short essays that we publish, but it never occurred to me until you posed the question how exactly this quote from French photojournalism pioneer Henri Cartier-Bresson fits the bill. In any form of narrative, really, choosing the frame is a crucial step. Picture a photographer holding her fingers to her eyes like a square to see what is contained within the box. Writers do that too, and flash writers (along with poets) do it with a particular intensity, because the frame of their telling is especially small.

The full interview with thoughts about e-books, artists crossing genres, and slush piles, can be found here

Writing from Inside of the Memory

August 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore is spending the summer setting up our Paris office, but he took a break yesterday to answer questions at the Matador travel writing site.  Here he is discussing what he looks for in a Brevity essay:

The short answer is that I want a piece of writing to make me look at the subject in a different way or think about an experience in a way that I hadn’t previously considered. In a very short piece — we limit our writers to 750 words — that means a sharp focus and immediate movement from the first line of the essay. Whatever the writer is tackling, ultimately the work is about the self. So in travel writing, for instance, it is not enough to say “I went there, and it was exotic.” I want to see a personal connection, feel why a place got under a certain writer’s skin. If the piece is about a childhood incident, I want to be inside of that memory, not outside watching the writer remember it.

La transcription complète is available here.



The Inherent Dangers of Memoir Writing

July 6, 2011 § 5 Comments

Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using MEMOIR to help them examine their lives. Some people had these symptoms when they began writing MEMOIR, and others developed them after several weeks of free-writing and active verb replacement. If you, your family, or workshop leader notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, genital warts, or genre confusion, or if you begin to obsess day and night over the best ways to gain the attention of a well-placed literary agent, stop writing MEMOIR and call your doctor right away or go here to keep reading

HTMLGIANT | Dinty W. Moore on Memoir

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

HTMLGiant, the literary blog with the liveliest comment section around, has a new feature where folks are asked to recommend six books, old or new, and to start the feature off they’ve asked Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore to recommend memoirs. Here’s what he had to offer.

Narrowing my list of representative memoirs down to six was an agonizing task, because there are so many solid examples. To keep the undertaking manageable (barely), I’ve limited myself to the last twenty years or so, and instead of a ‘favorites’ list, I’ve chosen six examples that I think show the range of what memoir can do.

My concise description of memoir is “the truth, artfully arranged.” Now we can argue about the meaning of the word truth for weeks, but I’d rather not. I think – despite all of the weakness of memory (and for that matter, observation) – that sophisticated readers understand that the truth they are given in memoir is the author’s subjective truth. There is no hope of objective accuracy, nor would that be as interesting to read. But you go after your truth, with honest intent. That means that an author who is willingly, consciously subverting what he remembers is not writing memoir, by my definition. Cross that line, and you are writing fiction. Which is fine, but it is another project entirely.

So I’ve pulled these six memoirs down from my shelves to illustrate how a life can be presented artfully.  Here they aare:


Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Those of you who write brief prose:

The Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest submission period begins October 15 and ends December 1, 2010. The 2010 judge will be Kim Chinquee.

During the submission period, email your 25–40 page double-spaced manuscript of short short stories under 1,000 words each to rosemetalpress@gmail.com either as Word docs or rtf files. Individual stories may have appeared in journals or anthologies, but collections as a whole must be previously unpublished. Please accompany your entry with the $10 reading fee, either via the payment button on the website or by check.

Writers of both fiction and nonfiction are encouraged to enter, and the contest is open to short shorts on all subjects and in all styles.  Previous contest winners include How Some People Like Their Eggs by Sean Lovelace (selected by Sherrie Flick) and We Know What We Are by Mary Hamilton (selected by Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore).

Winner and finalists will be announced by February 2011. The winning chapbook will be published in July 2011 in a limited edition of 300 copies, with an introduction by the contest judge.

More Information here: http://rosemetalpress.com/Submit/Submit.html

On the Lasting Importance of the Personal Essay

August 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore, author of the new writing guide Crafting the Personal Essay, is interviewed by Writer’s Digest about the personal essay genre and nonfiction in general:

I am tempted to say that the personal essay is more important than ever – many blogs are made up of daily personal essays, for instance – but the truth is, the personal essay has been an important part of the literary scene for centuries, and remains important, and will remain important. It is the artist’s job to delve down into the subject in search of insight and enlightenment, and like the poem, like the short story, the personal essay invites just such exploration.

Read the interview.

What I’m Reading: Dinty W. Moore

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

A week or so ago,  the Campaign for the American Reader asked Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore what he was reading.  His reply:

I am currently reading Philip Graham’s The Moon, Come to Earth, a fascinating blend of travel writing and family memoir set in Lisbon … Like everyone else in the nonfiction world, I’m also reading and re-sampling David Shields’ Reality Hunger: A Manifesto.… agreeing with about half of what he says, and disagreeing with about half … Just finished Steven Church’s The Day After “The Day After”: My Atomic Angst, a quirky hybrid memoir that chronicles a childhood spent in Lawrence, Kansas, chosen as the central locale for the iconic 1980s apocalyptic TV movie, “The Day After” … and finally, I’ve just started re-reading Lauren Slater’s Lying, a book I was determined to hate but which still fascinates me.

Full story here:  Campaign for the American Reader

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