Nonfiction Pizza Party

29 May 2012 on Blog, Nonfiction Pizza Party   Tags:

[Cue Pretentious Writer Voice] I was out to dinner with a group of writers after a reading one of us had given, and halfway through the meal, we started talking about submitting to literary journals. As it turned out, three of us had recently been declined by Brevity, an online journal specializing in brief essays. Another was awaiting response. And as I sipped my Belgian ale and gazed out the window at the tree branches waving in the night, I thought about the success of Brevity and what draws us to short pieces [End Pretentious Writer Voice].

Real talk, Brevity is one of my favorite journals. Their 750-word limit forces writers to deliver every word in the right place. Each essay, a few minutes of reading, highlights different modes to experiment with. I enjoy flash fiction and poetry for the same reasons. (Full disclosure, I also appreciate puppies, movie trailers, and mini-burgers—Brevity, Home of The Mini-Burger Essay.)

I'm sure many submit to Brevity because short essays seem easy and quick, but the reason I like writing them is their challenge. Writing a short is a puzzle, like a crossword layered over a Rubik's Cube.

For their spring 2012 issue, Brevity has launched a new website, really a streamlined version of their previous setup. The 16 essays in the latest issue are tongue-in-cheek, lyrical, minimalist, and heartbreaking. The issue's best metaphor is even better out of context: “He was a teddy bear crammed into a fishbowl.”

My favorite Brevity essay, “A Most Dangerous Game” by Alexis Wiggins, is simple in its structure and coming-of-age themes, but it socks you in the nose. Compared to Mary Karr's Cherry and Jo Ann Beard's The Boys of My Youth, Wiggins treats similar territory with fewer words and more power.

Fewer words. More power.

Brevity, thanks for punching me in the face.

--David Bersell


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