Photo by Anita Scharf

It’s always exciting for us at Longridge Review to get publishing news from one of our essayists. Dorothy Rice’s memoir, Gray Is The New Black (Otis Books, Seismicity Editions, June 2019), is a memoir of ageism, sexism and self acceptance. It’s also a wonderful portrait of an intelligent, beautiful woman struggling to confront her past in order to have the present and future she wants and deserves. Read on for insight into her process!

Q: I find elements of your essay here, Prom and Other Fairy Tales, in your book. Your relationship to your sisters and your mother, feeling trapped by other people’s expectations, being conflicted about your role in the male desires around you. When you go into the past with your writing, what do you find the most difficult? And how do you deal with it?

A: I love writing about the past. Perhaps because these are stories I believe I know. Meaning I know what remember as having happened and that’s where I start. But what I am always astonished by is how, in writing the scenes that I remember, that are born anew. When I take the time to go deep into memory, I find things I had forgotten or, even better, the past is revealed to me in new ways. 

This is a simple truth and goal of memoir writing, of course. When we recount childhood experience as adults, we both remember how it felt as a child and now, years later, we are looking at that experience with very different, ideally more reflective, generous and perhaps even forgiving, eyes.

That is what I love about Longridge Review – your focus on essays that explore exactly this broadening, this expansion, complexity and different understanding that emerges when we re-examine early experience. 

This is my wheelhouse, a place I could hang out in for days. 

My mother, sadly, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. If she were cogent, it’s quite likely I wouldn’t have written of her in many of the ways that I have, if at all (she was pretty prickly). As for my sisters, I share any writing that includes them before seeking publication. Over the years, it’s lead to interesting comparisons of our memories of the same event, colored by our differing personalities (I’m the Eeyore of the three). 

Q: You write a lot in this book about struggling to gain control over your weight throughout your life. Many people with a similar struggle say they only gained control over their body’s literal weight by dealing with the hidden weight of some kind of personal trauma. Was that true for you?

A: That was my hope and a main impetus for writing this book. I thought of 2017 as my year to fix whatever it was that ailed me and to write a book about the process. On the most simplistic level, I was dissatisfied with my appearance and my marriage and sick and tired of feeling that way. If not now, when? Edging up on 65, that was the mantra that urged me on.

It’s no surprise that diets and exercise proved no more effective in 2017 than in any prior year. I began digging for the roots of my body dissatisfaction issues and quickly stumbled into old trauma territory (rape at 15 and its lingering aftermath). 

I still struggle with weight and body acceptance. Revisiting and reflecting on the trauma didn’t “cure” me. But it moved the dial and sharpened my focus. I hadn’t realized the extent to which I harbored shame, guilt and embarrassment over mistakes made in adolescence. Those uncomfortable feelings are closely aligned with how I’ve long felt about my body, sexuality, and desirability as a woman.

In other words, writing about it wasn’t a quick fix (I don’t believe there is such a thing), but I’m more conscious now. When I’m beating myself up, I can often stop the shame/eat/repeat cycle before its hooks are into me. I work at being kinder, gentler and more forgiving with myself, which I hope makes me the same with others. 

Q: Anyone writing creative nonfiction has to grapple with the reactions of those we write about. Sometimes others even question the veracity of your memories. Have you had this happen, has anyone said, “That’s not the way it happened”?

A: If anything, it’s been illuminating rather than divisive. My sisters laugh when I recall a scene with dark and dreary overtones that for them was happy, or neutral. 

I am often asked about the general veracity of memory. How am I comfortable recreating dialogue (which I love to do)? How on earth do I know what Dad said when I was six? There are some conversations I remember (or believe I remember) verbatim, but I don’t claim to have total recall. I go for the emotional truth and work from there. I also believe in “method writing” (akin to “method acting” where the actor really climbs inside the character’s skin). I create a little movie in my head, immerse myself in whatever the scene is, press “play” and start writing.

In all the essays I’ve written with family-member and other’s dialog, no one has yet complained, “I never said that.” I don’t believe it’s because they ever said exactly those words, but rather the writing captured enough of where they were coming from emotionally and what they intended to communicate or accomplish. 

My parents found my memory for the details of every awful thing anyone ever did or said to me pretty irritating. To quote my dad,”Your mind is like the Roach Motel (a cockroach bait device that was featured in TV ads when I was a kid). Whatever makes it inside that head of yours, never comes out.” 

Of course, these traits have proven useful as a writer, or perhaps they explain why I write. I have to get it all out of there somehow or my head might explode.

Q: You write a lot about what I would call the way things appear, the way things feel, and the way things are. That’s a lot of angles! Where do you think that comes from, those conflicts that you seem to always be trying to resolve?

A: That’s an interesting question! Thank you for that.

On one level, that’s what the book is about. How one’s thinking about self and others–the various perception lenses through which life’s experiences are filtered–impacts everything. Our appreciation and enjoyment of life. The ability to experience joy and gratitude. The ability to be in the moment, living life, rather than dissecting what it might have been, could or should have been, and wasn’t. The ability to accept love and affection, to believe in it.

Deciding to write this particular book post-60, I had a sense of if-not-now-when, both in terms of the writing itself, but also in tackling what I perceive to be my personal demons head on. I wanted to bring my own awareness to the mental contortions I put myself though on a daily basis and to, to the extent possible, make peace with myself, who I am and how I am. 

The mind is a noisy place. Writing down some of what’s rattling around in there can bring a moment’s peace. It feels like tidying up, making some sense of a vexing or irksome memory.

Q: You write​ ​about writing itself. What was the most helpful piece of advice you received that influenced your writing process for this book?

A: Before beginning Gray Is The New Black, I had enrolled in a write-a-book-in-a-year class with NYT best-selling author Ellen Sussman. Both the structure of the class and the accountability provided by having deadlines and others to report to periodically were huge in terms of writing this book.

I really needed that. 

As for specific advice, Ellen was great at several junctures. Within the first month of beginning the memoir, I tapped into the material about my high school trauma and how that experience colored all my future interactions with boys and men. Once I’d turned the spigot, I couldn’t stop the flow. I literally spewed words, something like 150,000 in a matter of six weeks or so. I worried it was all garbage and that I was on the wrong track. Ellen reassured me by saying something along the lines of, “Just keep going. Get it all down. This is the stage you should be in. The generative stage.” 

Legitimizing what I was experiencing helped me a lot, as my tendency is to self-edit as I go. If I’d stopped to judge the value of recording these painful memories and impressions, I might have been mired down for months or years. Much of it got cut way back or eliminated during the various edits of the draft manuscript. But I needed the freedom to let it rip and not worry about form, shape, narrative thread or anything but the words that, after so many years, were finally finding their way out of me and onto the page. 

dorothyriceauthor.com
Gray Is The New Black

Ask the Editor is a resource for our readers and writers in which we review and respond to popular questions about our journal, essay writing, submissions, and literary potpourri type stuff. Have a question you’d like to see answered here? Send it to edg dot longridgeeditors dot com. Chosen questions will be kept anonymous.

This recent question comes from a writer who submitted an essay to the Barnhill Prize contest.

Q: “I’m wondering if essays will also be considered for the online journal outside of the contest?”


A: The short answer is YES, but the complicating factor is we don’t yet know exactly how. We are planning to send up to 10 essays to our judge, and ideally the essays that are not the prize winner will be published online. That is the plan at this point. We don’t know how many essays we will receive, though so far we are off to a good start!

We are grateful to everyone who supports our journal, and we read every essay with focus and care.

Like many online journal editors, we’ve had a range of experiences: Essays we declined, but then returned to the writer with more time to work through revisions and the writer was thrilled; essays we declined and then later returned to the writer to work on and he/she was not interested; essays we’ve accepted with moderate edits, and some with no edits. Some essays could not work for us.

Publishing essays is what we love to do. Thank you to each of you who gives us a chance to read your work.


June 1 opened submissions for the Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

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.

Selection process: Editors determine the pool of 10 finalist essays. Those 10 essays will be read by an outside judge who makes the final selection of one winning essay. The author of the winning essay receives a cash award of $250. The winner has ten days to accept the award. More information about this year’s judge, M. Randal O’Wain, can be found here: https://longridgereview.com/2019/04/12/m-randal-owain-to-judge-1st-barnhill-prize-contest/.

Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished. Previous winners of this award are not eligible to win again. Writers must be residents of North America. 

Essay Guidelines:

  1. Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
  2. The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About)
  3. Essays are only accepted via our Submittable online platform. No paper, please.
  4. Please be sure essay pages are numbered and that your name is NOT on the document that is your essay.
  5. Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
  6. Essays may not have been previously published.
  7. Authors may submit more than one essay to the competition for consideration as long as no material is duplicated between submissions. Each submission will require a separate entry fee.
  8. Essays under consideration for this competition may be submitted elsewhere at the same time. Please withdraw your essay if it is accepted by another publisher and should no longer be considered for the Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction competition. Withdrawal can be completed via the submissions manager website. Entry fees ($10 per submission) are not refundable.
  9. The final judge will not be aware of the names or publication records of the authors. If he believes he recognizes the work or identity of the writer, he will disclose that to our editors.
  10. Please forward any questions to edg (at) longridgeeditors (dot) com. Thank you!
© Larry Thacker

M. Randal O’Wain


We are over-the-moon excited to announce that M. Randal O’Wain will award the first Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

Randal holds an MFA from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He is the author of Meander Belt: Family, Loss, and Coming of Age in the Working Class South (American Lives Series, 2019) and Hallelujah Station and Other Stories (Autumn House Press, 2020).

His essays and short stories have appeared in Oxford American, Guernica, The Pinch, Booth, Hotel Amerika, storySouth, among others.

Randal lives in Alderson WV and lectures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His knowledge of place via WV and NC is a wonderful gift to this work; both states were special to Anne. 

Things to do today:

Special thanks to Jessie van Eerden and Wiley Cash for their encouragement.

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

***

Betty Sims Damewood

***

Frank Barnhill

Monica Graff

Sandra Lee Zahrn

Elizabeth Gaucher

Carol Damewood Spann 

Sharon Kurtzman

Kathryn Lovatt

Brenda Remmes

Beth Duttera Newman

***

Bernie and Ken Brown

***

Sophie Perinot

Nicholas Orlandi

Marie Fletcher

***

Molly Maass

Suzanne Farrell Smith

Penny McDonald

Priscille Sibley

Jessica Keener

Ellen Wiseman

Mimi Clark

Jessi Malatesta

Spring is finally here.

Three Trees ©Michael Teel

I don’t know about you, but I thought this Winter might be permanent. Some of that was the weather; more of that feeling was the death of my friend, Anne Clinard Barnhill.

Anne was a wonderful writer and a beautiful human being. She wrote a recommendation letter for my MFA application. She submitted 3 essays to the early version of Longridge Review, Essays on Childhood. She always had a kind word or an encouraging message for other writers, and it was that quality that made her shine in the writing community.

Anne’s passing slowed me down. She died in January, and we pushed through to publish our Winter issue on time. I also started fundraising to establish a literary prize in Anne’s name. Spring feels like the time to think and dream, to plan and create this next aspect of Longridge Review. The buds, though still tight, are starting to emerge.

One of my favorite aphorisms is, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” While laboring to make something flawless, we often end up with nothing at all. I find myself procrastinating on defining the process for the Barnhill Prize (What? A writer? Procrastinating?!) because I want it to be perfect; but what I really want more than conceptual perfection is a concrete reality.

I am asking you, dear readers and writers, to share your responses to these ideas. If you are comfortable, I’d love to see your comments on this blog post, right here on this page. If you’d rather your comments be private, you can email me at edg at longridgeeditors dot com.

Draft contest guidelines

Dates for submission: Essays may be submitted September 1 to October 31, 2019. Winners will be announced by the end of January 2020.

Contest queries can be directed to edg at longridgeeditors dot com. The $10 entry fee can be paid online via credit card or PayPal when using our Submittable platform.

Selection process: Each of five editors reads approximately one-fifth of the essays submitted to the competition, with an additional reader available if needed based on the total number of submissions. Editors select three finalists each; the pool of finalist essays is read by (judge to be named), who makes the final selection of one winning essay. The author of the winning essay receives a cash award of $250. The winner has ten days to accept the award. More information about our editors and this year’s judge can be found at (provide link).

Eligibility: The competition is open to writers in English, whether published or unpublished. Previous winners of this award are not eligible to win again. Writers must be residents of North America. 

Essay Guidelines

  1. Essays should be double-spaced and no more than 3,500 words in length.
  2. The award recognizes outstanding creative nonfiction that reflects our mission: (See About; add also link to more detailed submission guidelines).
  3. Please be sure essay pages are numbered.
  4. Please use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman in twelve-point size.
  5. Essays may not have been previously published.
  6. Authors may submit more than one essay to the competition for consideration as long as no material is duplicated between submissions. Each submission will require a separate entry fee.
  7. Essays under consideration for this competition may be submitted elsewhere at the same time. Please withdraw your essay if it is accepted by another publisher and should no longer be considered for the Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction competition. Withdrawal can be completed via the submissions manager website. Entry fees are not refundable.

Blind review: The intent of this contest is that essays will be considered on the merits of the work and that the final judge will not be aware of the names or publication records of the authors.

Confirmation of receipt and notification: You should receive an e-mail confirmation immediately after submission. An announcement of winners and finalists will be sent to all entrants via e-mail by the end of January.

One more thought: Though there can be only one award winner, we want to include recognition for finalists, a kind of “judge’s choice” acknowledgement. This feels like 2 additional essays being acknowledged in total, but it could be more or less.

Once we complete the contest, we would return to two regular submission periods, maintaining three annual opportunities for submissions, one being the contest now instead of three identical processes.

So this is our start! What do you think? What questions do you have? We hope you will help us make this first competition a success, and not just a success but a positive experience for everyone involved. Thank you!

Creative Nonfiction, #13 Winter 2018-19 

John Jacobson, Eight-Millimeter Film

Tracy Line, Traversing Icy Roads

Stephen Lottridge, What’s the Point of Rabbits?

Virginia Petrucci, Who Is Ben?

Dana VanderLugt, The Orchard

And other wonderful things…..come see!

In 2010, a little idea for sharing essays on childhood got a big boost when Anne Clinard Barnhill submitted “Winter Solstice” to an unknown fellow West Virginian. I wanted to pursue the idea there is a lot to say about how our early experiences shape the world. Anne later sent “Melungeons and Mystery,” as well as “Staying.” It is because of Anne’s belief in Essays on a West Virginia Childhood that the project became something so much bigger, an online literary journal that publishes writers from coast to coast in the USA and beyond (Longridge Review)

.anne

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.

Gifts to this campaign will benefit writers of Creative Nonfiction (essays and memoir) by establishing an annual prize for excellence fulfilling our mission: To present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.

These funds will support a $250 cash prize, as well as provide an honorarium for an outside essay judge. Click here to make a gift: Barnhill Prize on Go Fund Me.

Any additional funds will be preserved to sustain the prize over time. Accounting for funds will be provided annually.

Unless requesting anonymity, all donors will be recognized on a unique page on our website.

One person truly can change the world for the better. Anne is one of those people who has made a difference, who has multiplied her own blessings and made other people’s lives more creative, more rewarding, and more joyful by sharing her life so freely. I can think of no finer person for whom to name the Longridge Review annual prize.

Thank you for honoring Anne, and for supporting Creative Nonfiction!

The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.

Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in annual collections. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series. Every volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses with addresses.

The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s. Its legacy is assured by donations to its Fellowships endowment.

Longridge Review is pleased announce our 2018 nominees:

  • Nora Seilheimer, Back into Movement

(published Winter 2018-February, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/nora-seilheimer/)

  • Luanne Castle, The Secret Kotex Club  

(published Spring 2018-May, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/luanne-castle/)

  • Risa Nye, Visions of LaDonna                                                                                                          

(published Spring 2018-May, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/risa-nye/)

  • David McVey, On the Wonder of the World

(published Fall 2018-November, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/david-mcvey/)

  • Aliza Dube, Loved to Death

(published Fall 2018-November, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/aliza-dube/)

  • Nikki SambitskyPenny Drop

(published Fall 2018-November, Longridge Review, https://longridgereview.com/nikki-sambitsky/)

 

Congratulations to each of these wonderful writers, and thank you to everyone who found a forever home for his or her essay with us in 2018!

 

Header art by Sharon Lyn Stackpole, “Conversation with Annie,” ink and coffee on cold press.

 

Creative Nonfiction, #12 Fall 2018

Christopher Cascio, Kid
Heidi Davidson-Drexel, Your Boss
Aliza Dube, Loved to Death
Anne Noonan, Stink Tree
Lisa Rizzo, Snowsuit Prisoners

Nikki Sambitsky, Penny Drop

Featured Artist

Peter Tavernise

NEWS:

We will open submissions again from December 14, 2018 – January 15, 2019.

  • Our guest blogger in Issue 12 is essayist Heidi Davidson-Drexel. Read thoughts on how she developed the narrator voice in “Your Boss.”
  • Suzanne Farrell Smith’s essay, “The Helping Man,” is nominated by Pembroke Magazine for Pushcart Prize. Congratulations and good luck! This fall Suzanne also had an essay published in Brevity, “If You Find a Mouse in a Glue Trap.” Finally, her essay “Work and Love” is published in Issue 8 of Adanna. Way to go, SFS!
  • Read our editor Mary Heather Noble’s blog post, On Writer’s Block: Notes from the Kitchen Island. “I’ve tried all kinds of ways to avoid doing this work. I tried moving far away, and when that didn’t help, I wrote and published a few scenes from that childhood path and then suffered the consequences. I’ve tried writing about other things. I’ve tried literally running away.” This is a gorgeous and vulnerable self-examination of, among other things, the mountain climbing we do as children and as adults.
  • Our former guest editor for Peter Tavernise is this issue’s Featured Artist — check out his gorgeous digitally created work!
  • Do you have a question for us? Write to us at Ask the Editor. In December, we will tackle the question, “What qualifies as childhood for your mission?” Read Heidi’s blog post about her authorial choices in her essay, Your Boss.
  • We ask you to follow our blog! We don’t post there often, but when we do it’s focused information you can use about writing and writers, as well as updates about our journal.
  • We are on Twitter and Facebook: Follow/Like us to stay in the loop on all things Longridge: @LongridgeReview and Longridge Editors LLC.