When I first started writing again, I’ll admit that I had a pretty narrow view of nonfiction. Just the facts, right? So when I enrolled in UAA’s MFA program, I thought I had everything figured out. It’s amazing what the addition of the word “creative” in front of “nonfiction” can do in terms of detonating paradigms. Within a few weeks, I was exposed to a world of possibility within the world of creative nonfiction. Not just essays either. Prose poems. Lyric essays. Open forms. I distinctly recall writing something for my online semester, then posting a silly comment about it being “flash nonfiction,” which I supposed was an imaginary genre. Our instructor, Sherry Simpson, let me down easy and recommended I check out Brevity.
It turned out I hadn’t invented anything new. In fact, Brevity had been doing it for some time, publishing essays of 750 words or less. And boy, did those babies hum. Inspired, I had this foolish idea that someday, I could see some of my own work in Brevity. I even had something in mind – a short piece written from a class prompt that seemed to have promise, to hint at something more.
There were a couple of breakthroughs – one when I decided to fragment the essay. Another big moment was when I embraced the attention to detail needed for such a short piece. I wrote the piece, and edited it about 30 times, which. Then I sent it off to about twenty journals and waited.
I wrote the piece after reading as many Brevity essays as possible, so to say that I wrote specifically for the journal is no exaggeration. Most places rejected it, but I did get one nice note from the editor of Grist, who said they liked it but it didn’t for thematically. Nice, but a rejection no less.
Brevity got in touch, but it wasn’t quite the home run I wanted. They wanted to see a minor rewrite – the conclusion, it was lacking. So I rewrote. Again. And waited some more.
When I received my acceptance email, I was ecstatic. After nearly six months of cutting and editing and agonizing over articles and nouns and format, there it was: Accepted.
At my second summer residency, Ron Carlson said something profound about writing. The reward, he said, was the same whether we get published or rejected; whether we win an award or fail to make the semi-finals. We get to keep writing. That stuck with me, and still does every time something good or not-so-good happens to me as a writer.
So, what’s next now that I’ve published something in an incredible journal?
I get to keep writing.
The piece, called “When We Played,” is available to read for free online here. I’d love to hear what you think about the essay in its comment section.