Phone’s Ringing, Mailbox Overflowing

No from SMSU.
No from Arkansas State University.
No from the 5th dan who wanted a ghostwriter but changed his mind.

Yes from Ceramics Monthly.
Yes to a promotion from the literary journal I edit for.
Yes from Toe River Valley Watch, which learned about Lost Crossings and wants me to do a bit of writing for them.

And in other news:
Check out this fantastic>Interview with Kim Barnes on short creative nonfiction. This was just released in Brevity’s current issue online. It’s really worth reading the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt of some of my favorite parts:

Q. How do you define short creative nonfiction?

A. …The “short” designation is somewhere between one and ten pages, I’d say. The longer essays I write are often thirty pages or more. When I set out to write shorter essays, I’m often working from a more lyric stance – not simply “lyrical” in the sense of musical/poetic language; it has more to do with the movement of the piece. Lyric essays rely on image rather than narrative. The poet Richard Hugo said that poetry should be a battle between music and meaning and that neither should ever win, but, if one has to win, let it be music. In prose, that battle should tip in favor of meaning. Still, if you look at most very short essays, you’ll see that they rely on compression, intimation, and intuition – all the provinces of poetry.

Q. What are some of the problems that writers new to writing creative nonfiction seem to encounter?

A. Failing to step outside their own experience and see their individual stories as constructs that must conform to the same requirements as fiction. In other words, characterization, motivation, rising and falling action, unity of time and place, setting, dialogue, action and thought – the things required of the narrative arts, no matter the genre.

Contemporary personal essays are a new breed of narrative. Traditionally, personal essays were non-secular – Augustine and Montaigne and all that confessing. Really, we’re in new territory, and I find it exciting. But twenty-year-olds writing contemplative memoirs reliant upon soul-searching reflection and “looking back” narratives of meaning? Not going to happen.

Q. So what takes the place of that convention of confession – soulful contemplation and reflection?

A. Form. And that’s why we’re seeing this rise of interest in the short personal essay, which requires less contemplation and more imagination. But – and this is important – it requires no less discipline, dedication, wit, intellect. When I see shorter essays that fail to realize their potential, this is usually the problem: the author has seen the form as a short cut rather than an even greater challenge to balance music and meaning.

Oh, and a completely random factoid: The fellowship I wanted so badly at Wisconsin…well, they didn’t take 12 fellows this year, they only took 5. It’s the recession song and dance I’m seeing everywhere, but that really lessened the sting.

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