This is some of the best analysis around on why your work may be declined, here or anywhere. Concrete and on point. Take a look!

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

For editors, rejection is often a gut-level process: they’ve edited this journal for 5, 10, 15 years; they know instinctively if a piece doesn’t fit. For writers, rejection sucks. No matter how much we know that rejection is not feedback, we take it to heart. Question our worth. Wonder if we’ll ever write anything publishable. Rejection’s sting is the price we pay for the occasional, glorious feeling of acceptance—that we can’t predict or control.

But we can control our work. Often, a piece that’s been rejected multiple times has an identifiable problem. Take a look at your orphan essay, book or pitch. One of these issues might apply:

You’re submitting to the wrong outlet. The lowest bar to clear. Editor after editor has told me that half—half!—of what they receive is “wrong.” Not necessarily poorly written, but sent to the wrong place. A sweet personal essay sent…

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Cocktail Party © Judith Podell

Congratulations to our finalists for the Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction!

Anita Cabrera (San Francisco, California)
Catherine Con (Greer, South Carolina)
Carroll Grossman (Louisville, Kentucky)
Douglas Imbrogno (Huntington, West Virginia)
Lina Lau (Toronto, Ontario)
Beatrice Motamedi (Oakland,California)
Paulina Pinsky (Brooklyn, New York)
Frances Thomas (Brooklyn, New York)

We are exceptionally proud to present these writers and their outstanding essays. Out of over 60 submissions, our editors chose these eight to forward to contest judge Mike Smith. Mike has made his choice, and we will announce the winner on Monday, October 4; on that date we will also post links to each essay, along with bios of these talented writers.

Thank you for your support of this contest. Our goal is to keep the spirit of Anne Barnhill alive in the writing world she loved so much, as well as to offer recognition and reward opportunities for writers who “present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.”

Come see what our editor and creative muse Suzanne Farrell Smith has made!

Suzanne Farrell Smith

We’ve launched a literary journal!

Why in the world—why in this world—launch a literary journal? 

Writes Stephanie Burt in the New Yorker: “A new journal needs a reason to exist: a gap that earlier journals failed to fill, a new form of pleasure, a new kind of writing, an alliance with a new or under-chronicled social movement, a constellation of authors for whom the future demand for work exceeds present supply, a program that will actually change some small part of some literary readers’ tastes.”

On February 29, Waterwheel Review, opened for submissions. We three editors—Claire Guyton, Cheryl Wilder, and I—are a short story writer, a poet, and a creative nonfiction writer. Our reason to exist is to answer the question, “What if a literary journal ignores genre? What if we publish what you write, and let you decide what to call it?” We did not anticipate what…

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BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Brevity editor Dinty W. Moore will be offering a one-hour webinar next week, titled The Power of Story: Finding the River of Meaning in Your Memoir or Essay, as part of Creative Nonfiction‘s virtual education program.

The online webinar will examine the craft elements that can transform a memoir or essay from a mere collection of scenes or observations into something powerful, and how writers can create a dynamic, compelling whole greater than the sum of its many parts. The goal, as Langston Hughes writes, is to tell a story that is “older than the flow of human blood in human veins.”

This how-to webinar will allow writers to:
  • FIND the power of story and discover how locating your “Invisible Magnetic River” will insure that readers stay engaged and curious from beginning to end.
  • LEARN how story can help to solve many of the frustrations and obstacles that can…

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The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction

Submissions open June 1 and close July 31, 2019.

The Barnhill Prize honors Anne’s generous spirit of support for all who love to read and write; her lifelong empathy with those who mine their childhood experience to understand themselves now; the natural vulnerability in her compelling prose and poetry; and her boundless generosity in sharing her writing passions with the world.

Read more about the guidelines here.

Read more about our wonderful founding donors here.

This list is developing!

Charlotte and Brian Sweeney

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Betty Sims Damewood

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Frank Barnhill

Monica Graff

Sandra Lee Zahrn

Elizabeth Gaucher

Carol Damewood Spann 

Sharon Kurtzman

Kathryn Lovatt

Brenda Remmes

Beth Duttera Newman

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Bernie and Ken Brown

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Sophie Perinot

Nicholas Orlandi

Marie Fletcher

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Molly Maass

Suzanne Farrell Smith

Penny McDonald

Priscille Sibley

Jessica Keener

Ellen Wiseman

Mimi Clark

Jessi Malatesta

Interesting ideas here: “The 3-act structure is a common form for storytelling. Movies and plays in particular adhere closely to this model most of the time. While in fiction you can write to fit the structure, nonfiction makes it a little trickier because you need to adhere to the facts. And surprise! Our real lives don’t necessarily fit into neat little storytelling containers.”

If You Have Five Seconds to Spare

3-act-structure

How the 3-act structure looks for fiction (taken from https://www.nownovel.com/blog/three-act-formula-novels/).

The 3-act structure is a common form for storytelling. Movies and plays in particular adhere closely to this model most of the time. While in fiction you can write to fit the structure, nonfiction makes it a little trickier because you need to adhere to the facts. And surprise! Our real lives don’t necessarily fit into neat little storytelling containers.

That being said, I have found the 3-act structure useful in shaping my nonfiction. Reading more about the form helped me at a crucial time when I was struggling to organize my memoir. Nonfiction won’t fit every single criterion set out in the 3-act structure, but the form can be helpful as a loose guide.

When I teach memoir and other nonfiction classes, I always spend time talking about the 3-act structure. I adapted this 3-act guide from Mary Carroll…

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Many thanks to our Creative Muse for this inspired relay of excellent advice! “Sometimes writing feels great and floats along and the words seem to choose themselves and the meaning is so clear and revision is a blast. But sometimes writing is muddled. Out of our control. Just out of reach.”

Suzanne Farrell Smith

This summer, I consider my professional companion to be Donald Graves, one of the most influential thinkers in the history of writing instruction. As I prep for fall teaching, consider how writing and literacy instruction overlap, and research new pieces on the writing process and life, I’m reading, eagerly but deliberately, Graves’s 1983 book, Writing: Teachers & Children at Work.

Writing developed from Graves’s groundbreaking National Institute of Education study on writing instruction in the late 70s. There is much to learn from his research, thinking, and recommendations. But my favorite Graves lesson, by far, comes 85% of the way through Writing (p 270). I believe my friends in both writing and education will like it too:

After four years of working with the study in Atkinson, New Hampshire, when all the data were in and the information brewed down to the most important finding, we recorded that:

WRITING IS A HIGHLY IDIOSYNCRATIC PROCESS THAT VARIES…

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