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.

Here is a question that is often on most writers’ minds:  Is there a common reason you reject submissions?

Q:  Like most journals, you probably reject more submissions than you publish. What’s the biggest mistake people make?

A:  It’s true, we take 10% or less of the submissions we receive. I deliberately use the term “decline” vs. “reject” because it’s more accurate. There are two basic categories for our declines. The first is mathematical and straightforward. The second is nuanced and often complicated.

 

Category One is made up of essays that do not conform to what we request. They are over the word count, off-mission, or fiction. Those declines are especially frustrating when the writing is good — and Longridge Review attracts a lot of talented writers.

These particular mistakes happen, I believe, because people often have some writing they’d like to have find a forever home, and these pieces are sent out to various places rather than crafted specifically for us. There is not one thing wrong with that in general, I am sure it’s quite common, but it can lead to wasted time all around because the work just doesn’t fit what we do.

Occasionally, it’s obvious that the writer is penning a longer work about his or her life, something more in the memoir form. It would be great if those of us who write creative nonfiction could just cut and paste the right word counts out of our manuscripts and Ta! Da! have a great essay. But it really doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you can craft something forward, such as a collection of essays into a book, but even that is a creation that is more than the sum of its parts, and difficult to do.

Category Two is harder to explain than the first set of mistakes. It can be an essay of the right word count, optimum punctuation and grammar, even some breathtaking sentences, and still not work. These narratives can be broken down into three general types:

  1. The Recounting Narrative — It’s surprisingly common for us to receive pieces of writing that read as if the writer is scrolling through his or her brain and writing down whatever is recalled. Declining a piece like this is not a judgement on the value of the memory. It is usually because the narrative has no discernible structure. Why are you telling us this? is what goes through the reader’s mind. What does this have to do with me?  Where is this going?
  2. The Not-Taking-It to-The-Pain Narrative — If you know The Princess Bride book or film, you know “to the pain” is a classic phrase the hero uses to intimidate the villain, promising not to kill him but to leave him alive and eternally suffering. Cheerful, right? (It’s actually a very funny scene in total.) You do not have to suffer eternally to write a good essay, but you know what? You do have to suffer a little bit. Often that pain is something the writing itself can exorcise from a troubled past. But a writer does have to get to it, to touch it, to own it. We can tell when an essay is dancing around what really hurts, trust me. Your readers can, too. Often we writers are the last to know. Which leads me to . . .
  3. The It’s-All-About-Me Narrative — Writer Brian Doyle said that bad personal essays are about the writer. Good personal essays are about the rest of us. What does that mean? you ask. How can I write about you if I don’t even know you? You can’t write about me, but you can connect your life with mine, with that of any other human being. That’s why this is art. That’s why this is important. That’s why your writing matters to the world. Not because you necessarily are instructing others, but because you are giving them the gift of the “a-ha” moment. When a reader can see him- or herself in your essay, even if it’s the most foreign thing literally speaking, that’s the win. That’s why we write. That’s why we read. An unexpected example for me in Issue 11 was Cars: An Unrequited Love Story. I’ve never been a teenage boy. Never had feelings for an automobile. I laughed a lot during this essay, and have read it several times. I realized it’s not about cars. It’s not about Scott Peterson; I mean, it is, but it’s about more than that. It’s about young ideals, about hopes and dreams, about sacrificing and working to bring something into your life that you really want, and coping with the aftermath when it doesn’t quite roll out like you hoped it would. It’s about growing up, and we’ve all done that.
Keep those cards and letters — and essays — coming!

“Get to the point,” he answered immediately, when I asked what advice he can offer newer writers. “I usually have a speech I make to my students. “Cut to the chase. Tell a tale. All things are stories; romance, work, education, religion and stories are how we most commonly and easily eat information, eat the world; so the storyteller has enormous power and pop if the story is naked. The best tales are direct and unadorned.”– Brian Doyle

More details are on the way, but right now you can be one of the first to read and share 6 new essays from this talented group of writers:

Creative Nonfiction, #11 Spring/Summer 2018

 

Featured Artist

Jon Tarleton

Enjoy!

We Addicts, a Hopeless Bunch — Reprinted with the permission of Larry D. Thacker. Read Larry’s blog here, Death and A Writer: A Blog. Featured art image ©Larry D. Thacker.)

 

Talk about a metaphor.

Most of the writers I know are hardcore addicts. A hopeless bunch.

And not in the sense of substances ruling their lives (I’m glad I can brag how most of my close writing friends are pretty healthy people, though we imbibe heartily on occasion). But we all suffer a problem with writing and we’re all agreeably co-dependent upon each other.

When we get together, we don’t encourage healing. We don’t support each other by helping break away from our additions to the written word, our eternally anchored lives to the pen, page, laptop, and desk.

We gather in each other’s secret company, at conferences, festivals, residences, and writers groups, to load up, and stab the veritable needle into one another’s neck all day and all night. In person. Through social media. By e-mail. Via hand-written notes. By the books of poems, shorts stories, novels, and creative non-fiction we produce and circulate like so much underground illegal drug activity. We’re a hot mess, as they say.

We are addicts, indeed. Psychologically. Physiologically. Socially. Culturally. Economically. Religiously. Enslaved to the word, and the word to us. When we engage in these precarious acts, we experience a heightened pleasure nearly as delightful as anything the world offers. This is why we persist in our crazed life choices, come success or failure, clarity or confusion.

We learn to gather up our many rejections like the old adage: At least a bad day of drinking was still drinking (or was that a phrase about fishing?). When we’re not writing, or revising, or submitting, or reading, something feels imbalanced about life. It’s that craving that sends us off kilter until we’re back again doing that tasty thing that preoccupies us waking or sleeping, or in that dazed in-between world.

And it’s in our dreams, too. We dream about that good, sweet high. That one elusive poem we must eventually create. That lovely paragraph we’re chasing. That short story we lost in a fevered dream when coming down. The vision of a story just waiting around the magical corner.

We’re all chasing the same thing and something different all at once. An alchemical cocktail of words discovered by only us in the lonely night, tested swirling in our own bloodstream, boiled down and readied for a hungry world.

 

Greetings, Writers:

We have developed a gift for launching our calls for submission during the CRWROPPS hiatus (no new announcements until after March 12).

Our submission period will be extended to May 1.

CRWROPPS is the Creative Writers Opportunities List moderated by Allison Joseph. It is a public Yahoo group with over 14,000 members that posts calls for submissions and contest information for writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. It is an important resource for writers as well as for publishers.

If you are not already connected to this group to receive calls for submission, check out the details here for how to join: CRWROPPS-B.

We encourage established, unpublished, or emerging writers to submit their best work to Longridge Review.

Visit our full submission guidelines here: https://longridgereview.com/submit/

We look forward to reading your work!

Our emphasis is on literature that explores the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan. Take look through some of our online essays to get a feel for what we publish.

We are committed to publishing narratives steeped in reverence for childhood experience and perceptions, but we seek essays that stretch beyond the clichés of childhood as simple, angelic, or easy. We want to feature writing that layers the events of the writer’s early years with a sense of wisdom or learning accumulated in adult life.

We welcome diverse creative nonfiction pieces that demonstrate perceptive and revealing moments about the human condition.

We will not consider trite, light narratives; genre nonfiction; critical analyses; inspirational or motivational advice; erotica or pornography; or any writing that purposefully exploits or demeans.

We encourage established, unpublished, or emerging writers to submit their best work to Longridge Review.

We will consider one creative nonfiction piece (up to 3,500 words) per submission period. Please do not submit more than once during the reading period. Individual authors will not be published more than once per calendar year. The deadline is midnight EST April 1, and there is a $3.00 fee.

Visit our full submission guidelines here: https://longridgereview.com/submit/

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André Alexis, Childhood:

“Time, which isn’t like ground at all, washes things up without regard for order or sense. My life comes back to me in various pieces, from Pablum to tombstones, each piece changing the contour of the life I’ve led. I will have thousands of childhoods before time is done.”

Ask the Editor is a new 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.

First up is a great question that ponders, just what is creative nonfiction writing, anyway?

Q:  I’m new to writing and submitting my work. The story I sent you is non-fiction in that it actually happened to me. I was the little girl. But I consider it fiction in that it is radically embellished.  Am I confused about genres?

A:  If you are confused about genres, you are not alone. Creative Nonfiction is a relatively new genre, at least in terms of a single definition. Within the literary community there is debate about its nature, about its highest and best form. Some people even refuse to acknowledge creative nonfiction as a legitimate genre, and hold that the subject matter of writing is either true (nonfiction) or not true (fiction).

Increasingly, though, there is awareness that our existence and experience are non-binary things. I won’t attempt to go into all of that here, but I subscribe to a couple of ideas about this complexity that guide Longridge Review.

1) We can never recall exactly what happened but still need to write about what we do remember to find the truth in that experience.

There is some science that says every time we recall something, we change it.

(Let yourself sit with that for a minute or two.)

2) The key is to not deliberately and strategically write something that is, as you say, “radically embellished,” and then try to pass it off as anything other than fiction.

It sounds like what you have is a piece of fiction that is inspired by personal experience. Some might say that personal experience is THE launch pad for fiction, at least to some degree. Even if the story is about a murder, say, or an alien invasion (things hopefully of limited personal experience), the writer has to have some experience with the core elements of the story in order to make it work. Maybe she worked at a newspaper and covered the crime beat. Maybe he loved the planetarium as a child and has a keen awareness of planets and systems in space.

I hope this is helpful. While creative nonfiction can cover forms like poetry, Longridge Review focuses on the essay form.

For more on the genre, we recommend this by Lee Gutkind: What is Creative Nonfiction?

The word “creative” has been criticized in this context because some people have maintained that being creative means that you pretend or exaggerate or make up facts and embellish details. This is completely incorrect. It is possible to be honest and straightforward and brilliant and creative at the same time.

“Creative” doesn’t mean inventing what didn’t happen, reporting and describing what wasn’t there. It doesn’t mean that the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear—and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader—the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

 

The holidays are upon us, and we are thankful for all of the readers, writers, and artists who make Longridge Review possible!

We hope you will “follow” our blog posts — which are few and far between — to keep in touch with some innovations for this site in 2018. We would love to have your creativity be part of growing our mission via essays and art. You can also keep an eye on us via social media (see below).

  • Issue #9 is LIVE today!
  • Submissions for our Winter 2017-18 issue will open December 15, 2017
  • We are pleased that Molly Young Maass, District of Columbia, will join our board of readers and contributing editors for our next issue. Welcome, Molly!
  • In our current issue, creative advisor Suzanne Farrell Smith interviews her sister, Deb Farrell. We are truly honored to have Deb as our featured artist this issue. Don’t miss the intimate exchange between sisters that offers an unusually candid insight into Deb’s work.
  • We are on Twitter and Facebook! Follow us to stay in the loop on all things Longridge: @LongridgeReview and Longridge Editors LLC.

NOTE: Our mission results in our publishing uniquely sensitive narratives. Childhood experiences are formative, and tend to land in emotionally — and sometimes psychologically — difficult territory. While the writing is about childhood, these essays are not for children. Some essays contain adult language, explorations of sexuality, and instances of verbal or physical abuse. They also contain moments of light and love and humor. Thank you for reading and sharing responsibly. — EDG

In this issue:

Victims or Others?
Gina Ferrara (New Orleans) remembers a colorful crew of men who play cards at her grandfather’s bar and clubhouse in the French Quarter. “Chicago Mike” always seems to have an assortment of random gifts on him. One day, Gina and her sister are the recipients of some of those gifts, and she finds herself asking herself questions about what it means to be involved in something you’re not even sure you understand.

How to Be on Time
Andy Harper (Illinois) weaves a narrative that goes to an unexpected place. When he finds his young adult self beset by unexpected anxiety, he is determined to follow the bread crumbs to its origin. The conclusion is shocking. This essay broke a couple of hearts at our editorial table, and is an excellent example of why we publish Longridge Review.

Sepia
Anne Muccino (Kansas City) reflects on the first time she repeated a term spoken inside her family and realized it wasn’t something said aloud to others, most importantly not to the people being labeled with that word. This is a poignant snapshot of a child’s dawning awareness that not everything said casually or even said warmly has a casual or warm effect on others.

Shooting Stars
Jonathan Sonnenberg (New York City) deftly tells us something about himself by writing about an influential teacher.  Mr. Bell likes to ask his students prickly questions. Have they ever been drunk? Tried pot? Cocaine? The class is pretty used to his provocations, until one afternoon a question sucks the air out of room. Mr. Bell is after more than discomfort. He has something he needs them to know.

A Bowl Full of Jelly
Victoria Waddle (Claremont) is devastated by her grandmother’s death, but learns how to conjure her presence in dreams. These visits help, some, but become increasingly dissatisfying as her grandmother never comes fully back to who she was in life. Eventually, the dream woman sends a message that makes it plain her visits are over. But will she ever truly not be there, somewhere?

Sentence Enhancers
Teige Weidner (Oregon) has a story about his childhood that will ring familiar to too many readers. He is bullied, a lot, and the abuse is taking a toll. No one seems to appreciate how bad things are for young Teige, but they are about to find out. After all, we all only have so much fuse, and his is about to burn down.

p.s. Want to write for us? See submission guidelines here: Longridge Review SUBMIT

Issue #7 went online in early May. Need some great reading? Catch up here with vibrant mixed media of Toti O’Brien (Pasadena), as well as diverse essays from an array of talented creative nonfiction writers.

Following are previews of the essays via their original Facebook and Twitter posts. Links to each essay are in the tweets.

NOTE: Our mission results in our publishing uniquely sensitive narratives. Childhood experiences are formative, and tend to land in emotionally — and sometimes psychologically — difficult territory. While the writing is about childhood, these essays are not for children. Some essays contain adult language, explorations of sexuality, and instances of verbal or physical abuse. They also contain moments of light and love and humor. Thank you for reading and sharing responsibly. — EDG

Abby Burns (Indiana)

“As a kid, I often found myself yearning to embody others, especially in those moments when people left me alone to my thoughts. Call it escapism, but when I was nine years old, Xena Warrior Princess used to take over my body. She would save a busload of children after a catastrophic car accident, pulling them from windows just as fire hit the gas tank and the vehicle exploded in the background.”

In Uninvited Hauntings reflects on imagined ghosts, then unmasks the real ones.

Michael Chin (New York)

“But perhaps it’s because he couldn’t speak the language that my grandfather was drawn to professional wrestling. Ostensibly a sport (one with so few rules, and such clear lines between good guys to cheer and bad guys to jeer) that he didn’t need the English language to follow what was happening, just eyesight to see the fights and a sense of hearing to follow who the crowd was rallying for and against.

It was my grandfather who drew my father into wrestling, after which my father introduced it to me.”

.‘s epic The Bionic Elbow. Promise, challenge, , , and

Minna Dubin (Berkeley)

“Like those nights in the woods, every shoplifted t-shirt or skimpy pair of underwear was another thing I managed to get over on the adults, over on authority, over on the voices that said, You don’t know anything – you’re just a chubby kid. Walking out of a store without paying was a game, and if I won, then I didn’t just beat the big bad guy at the end of round one. I beat the cameras, the end-of-the-aisle mirrors, the check-out girls, the dressing room helpers, and the detectors at the store exits. Stealing meant beating the whole system. Though I didn’t know exactly what all ‘the system’ entailed, I knew for sure it was the homing ground for the voices I heard.”

. recounts mysteries of female identity, adolescent obsessions, the lure of shoplifting.

Susan Grant (Maine)

“She did not know what to do. She had been playing with a neighbor several doors down, and now, her friend had to leave to go with her mother to the store. The little girl decided that she ought to go home and maybe get a cookie. As she approached the gate into her yard, she reached her tiny hand to open the latch, and he turned on her. The little girl will never forget the sounds that came from his mouth. Her hands shook at the memory.”

Susan Grant writes of something menacing a child from behind a gate. She wants 2 pass. Will she enter?

Amanda Kay (Pittsburgh)

“Living there, we were immersed in smoke. Jack had a cigarette in his hand from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed. Smoke was his personal halo. His skin was yellow-gray, his thoughts distracted as though his brain had never quite learned how to be sober after so many years of alcoholism… I didn’t understand for some time what it truly cost my mother to live in the same house with him again.”

Amanda Kay’s mom went 2 juvie 4 pulling a knife on her stepdad. He had it coming. Was it nature or nurture?

Gleah Powers (Santa Monica)

“We’ve been having some talks,” he said. “Your father realizes he made some bad choices. He’s on morphine and pretty much incoherent but he wants to see you. I called your mother and sister. They don’t want anything to do with him.”

. The longing for my father began at 21 & Bcame chronic 3 months B4 I turned 21

Helen, Ruggieri (New York)

“Lefties know the name of their condition, but introverts usually don’t. They have to figure it out later on. They’ll read Hamlet, years after the fact and say, Wow. There’s a man after my own heart. He knows what lies below the surface of life.”

Helen Ruggieri conjures as , remembers chains, life as an

Gretchen Uhrinek (Pennsylvania)

“We met on a playground. I, the ever-tenacious six-year old, was leader, chief, head honcho, and ruling monarch of a little thing I called the Vampire Club. It was a scam, of course. A poor kid in a rich school, I never intended on doing anything with the club. But for just ten smackaroos, any kid on the playground could join. Any kid except for Dan. He didn’t have any friends, and I didn’t have any friends, and I wanted nothing to do with him.”

Gretchen Uhrinek’s “Dan” Edgy, raw, & real. Sex, drugs, enemies, frenemies, then .

Featured Artist

Toti O’Brien (Pasadena)

“I have been a dancer for my whole life. I have often hoped the motion inhabiting my body would spill into my visual work, giving it some of its energy, its lightness, its joy.”

 

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  • Issue #6 is LIVE today!
  • Submissions for the Spring 2017 issue will be accepted from 02/01/01 to 04/01/17.
  • Featured artist Lorette C. Luzajic is offering Longridge Review readers a generous discount on her work. Visit our page dedicated to her for the details!
  • Creative Advisor  Suzanne Farrell Smith’s essay, “Another Version of Us,” will be included in Selected Memories, an anthology of true stories and the first-ever book title from Hippocampus Magazine and Books. Suzanne will read her essay at Hippocampus’s AWP event in February. You can pre-order Selected Memories here.
  • Contributing Editor Mary Heather Noble’s essay “Eulogy for an Owl” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editors of Creative Nonfiction.
  • Editor Elizabeth Gaucher’s flash creative nonfiction, “Underneath,” was chosen by editors Valley Haggard and Sarah Allen Short for Life in 10 Minutes’ first print anthology.
  • Gaucher’s essay, “Allons, Enfants: A Young Appalachian in Paris,” was nominated by the editors of Still: The Journal for a Pushcart Prize.
  • Our editors are pleased to announce our first-ever Pushcart Prize nomination, Mary Gustafson’s “Time Stops.”
  • Please consider a dontation, large or small, to support Longridge ReviewPayPal.Me/LongridgeEditorsLLC. We do not charge a submission fee or accept commercial advertising. Our mission is supported entirely by volunteers.
  • We are on Twitter! Follow us to stay in the loop on all things Longridge: @LongridgeReview