March 20, 2014 § 5 Comments
The place was packed.
Kelly Sundberg opened the panel with words worth my conference fee. She made the case that flash is too often and not thoughtfully enough categorized by length. Sundberg delineated four qualities differentiating flash from short fiction or nonfiction:
Flash lacks space for explanation and multiple characters. Image is the way into the emotional experience.
Nix grammar & punctuation. Fragment good.
Flash connects emotionally. Intuition is stronger in than in a longer piece. There, lean on structure.
Don’t just label it. Make those words do double duty.
Speaking next, Sarah Einstein, managing editor of Brevity, justified hotel costs by laying out what makes a submission work for the magazine
- Brevity leans toward memoir over thinky.
- For thinky-er pieces, try Slate.
- “We are not the edgyist journal on the planet. Brevity is not usually shocky—raw sex and drugs.”
- Sex and drugs? That would be a Pank piece.
Moving to what she sees too often, Einstein said, “Ten – 15% of submissions are set at a funeral or doctor’s office.”
- “Those are the moment that hit the writer in gut … (but they do not necessarily) hit the reader in the gut.”
- If writing about the loss of a loved one, write “the moment that you get it, that they are gone for good, and what you will miss. Write what you are doing at the time.”
Then came Creative Nonfiction’s Hattie Fletcher. Although CNF recently published several two-page essays, their tweet feature is where they do short. In the name of parallel structure, I thank Fletcher for covering my coffee expenditures.
Fletcher summarized a CNF certified-good tweet:
- Tell a story.
- You don’t have much room for reflection, but you must have a “my take.”
- Find meaning.
- You see a crazy person on the bus, and then another person says this.
- Use the juxtaposition to convey observation.
- Too many read like jokes, observations or description.
- Or settle for describing a character.
- The biggest challenge:
- Get outside your head.
- Don’t make your tweet cryptic.
The final speaker, Chelsea Biondolillo, posted a summation of her presentation here. Astoundingly, it includes a list of magazines accepting short nonfiction. To be clear, she is sharing what must have been hundreds of hours of research.
With this post, she is saving us all that time and all that rejection heartbreak.
The more I sift through the gifts of the panel, the less I want to poke fun at monetary value or highfalutin’ academia. I’ve been to plenty of commercial conferences. Not once did a writer make as selfless a gesture as Biondolillo’s. Not once did editors give as much submission information about a competing magazine as they did about their own.
AWP is a special experience. Thank AWP. Join. Return. Thank the presenters. Subscribe. Buy books. Donate. Today.
Alle C. Hall won The Richard Hugo House New Works Competition. Favorite publications in Creative Nonfiction, Bust, Literary Mama, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger (Contributing Writer). She blogs at About Childhood: Answers for Writers, Parents, and Former Children. Stop by. She’s happy to talk your ear off.