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Lit Mag Spotlight: Creative Nonfiction

Creative NonfictionThis month’s Lit Mag Spotlight is honored to shine on Creative Nonfiction! This groundbreaking magazine publishes some of the best (you guessed it!) nonfiction in the world, and they’ve taken time out of their busy schedule to tell Writer’s Relief a little about themselves. Read about their ideal essay, what they think widens the scope of the personal narrative, and why they’re just plain awesome. Enjoy!

CONTEST: Leave a comment on this blog post by April 4 to enter to win a FREE one-year subscription to CNF (four issues, including digital or international subscriptions)! That’s pretty sweet, right? This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Kimberly, our winner. Thank you to all who participated!

Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.

We aim to be the resource for anyone with an artistic, critical, or business stake in creative nonfiction. We like to think we have our finger on the pulse of the CNF genre—we’re always keeping our eyes open for new talent and places where the genre is changing or growing. We’ve consistently featured prominent authors from the United States and around the world, but we’ve also launched the careers of some really exciting emerging writers. A typical issue contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.

Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.

A beautifully written, compelling narrative supported by research and engagement with the outside world.

Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord? Can readers find it online?

We all loved—and also have seen a great response from readers to—the Elissa Bassist interview of Cheryl Strayed that kicked off our latest issue, “Female Form.” The issue happens to feature essays exclusively by female writers, but the conversation—covering the challenges of the writing process, the difference between fame and success, and writer jealousy—is fascinating for any writer. You can find the full interview on our website!

Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turn off that you encounter (in terms of craft)?

We like personal essays, but the work we accept usually has more going on in it than just a personal narrative. We see a lot of writing that never gets beyond the “I”—stories that could be about something bigger, but that never take that turn and widen their scope. This sounds harsh, but you have to sort of ask, “Why should I care about this story?”

What’s the most common oversight in terms of submission guidelines?

We’re fairly flexible regarding guidelines, but we will occasionally receive book-length manuscripts or submissions of essays based on or including pictures–and while we hate to turn these away, we just can’t accommodate them. So, we would stress to submitters to generally try to stick to the 4,500-word limit, and to think about whether a piece would work in the print magazine, logistically.

Why is your journal awesome?

Not only do we publish high quality essays, we also have tips and advice about craft in each issue. We’re an amalgamation of wonderful, true stories and Poets & Writers-type content for the CNF genre.

Where can readers find your submission guidelines?

 You can find guidelines on our Submissions page on the CNF website.

Freeform. What else would you like to say? If you want, you can ask the question that you were hoping we would ask you (and then, of course, you can answer!).

We’d like to talk a little to the length of time it takes us to respond to submissions. We read year-round—and (despite lacking in man/woman power) we read absolutely everything that comes in, and almost all of what we publish comes in unsolicited, and makes its way up through the giant pile of manuscripts we receive. The writing truly must speak for itself. But this is not a quick or easy process, and it’s not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months. Unfortunately, this is especially true for work we like: If we feel strongly about a piece, we’ll often keep it in hand to see if we can make it work for an upcoming issue.

Also, we want to commend Writer’s Relief for curating this feature on their blog and getting the word out about a variety of literary journals and magazines. As writers, it’s so important to support these publications. Many lit journals and magazines are unfortunately on the verge of bankruptcy or extinction; without them, we would miss out on so many new voices, groundbreaking work, and for writers, opportunities to publish!

Check out CNF on Twitter and Facebook!

Contest: Leave a comment on this blog post by April 4 to enter to win a free one-year subscription to CNF. This contest is now closed.

37 Responses to Lit Mag Spotlight: Creative Nonfiction

  1. It’s great to hear that you’re shooting for the stars, Jennifer. Good luck!

  2. I love Creative Nonfiction and have a goal of one day seeing my work amongst its pages.

  3. Creative Nonfiction is a top quality magazine, and I’m really hoping that I can produce something worthy of being published in it!

  4. Love CNF! Got a subscription for my birthday, and would love to receive it another year!

  5. That’s awesome, Shannon! You and your friend were putting CN vibes out into the writing world. Good luck should you decide to submit.

  6. I am so glad I found this post. I am very interested to see that in your issues you also put some advice and crafting tips. I am always interested in reading some good literature, as well as some tips to writing it, as well! Thank you for sharing!

  7. I am so happy to see Creative Nonfiction featured here. It’s been coming up in conversation daily with a friend of mine who constantly name drops Creative Nonfiction and Dinty Moore. I will check it out and possibly submit.

  8. Very helpful interview, especially the part about the most common turn-off CNF encounters in personal essays.

  9. Thanks for the blog post! Creative non-fiction is my favorite genre–I am addicted to well written essays!

  10. Thanks, Writer’s Relief for sharing about Creative Nonfiction! As a freelance news writer, I cover nonfiction often, in the factual aspect more than creatively. I’d love to win a subscription to CNF so I could have a consistent example to reference and enjoy a great read!

  11. I’m unfamiliar with CNF, but believe it would contain info strongly related to my writing. After a lifetime of nonfiction writing, I’ve mostly switched to fiction; I’m still thinking about more nonfiction as well. I’d love a year’s subscription to get me started, giving me a preview of what’s to come.

  12. CNF is a wonderful print literary journal. Each issue is well-crafted with the perfect selection of writing. I can’t even begin to describe how happy a year’s subscription would make me.

  13. The Bassist/Strayed interview was fantastic! I just checked out the tiny cnf stories on Twitter, and those are cool too – Can’t wait to read more from Creative Nonfiction.

  14. It’s nice to read about a lit mag that specializes in CNF–a genre that could use more exposure. Thanks for this!

  15. Fascinating interview and nice to know more about the process and philosophy at Lit Mag. I especially appreciate the link to the Bassist article for follow-up.

    Thanks, Writer’s Relief. This one really caught my eye.

  16. I’m excited to learn about Creative Nonfiction! Sounds like an awesome vehicle to promote seasoned as well as newbies in the CNF genre! :) Thanks for the post, Writer’s Relief!

  17. This has inspired me to spend more time on CNF. I have life experiences which I have incorporated into books, and have a list of “to writes” which may never be written in my lifetime (I should have started 20 years ago).

    I have already bookmarked this page for future reference. Thank you for providing another great resource for those of us who are always looking for new outlets for our creativity.

  18. I’m glad to find your magazine – I just finished reading a collection of essays by E.B.White. A lot of what I read in the newspaper (The Guardian, Observer – UK publications) are essays. These tend to be more topical than essays in a magazine, particularly a literary mag. They’re much more personal than an editorial, despite appearing in a newspaper.

    Do you publish political/economic essays as well as those concerning literature?

  19. I’ve found myself reading more creative non-fiction lately which has resulted in writing more. It’s a fascinating genre, especially when you run across pieces that grip you the way fiction does.

  20. I think it’s wonderful that there are quality literary magazines that try to read everything that gets submitted to them; I read so much about other sites and journals that only accept solicited material or only for a short period every year and toss everything else. I’ve read a couple of articles from Creative Nonfiction online and certainly look forward to reading more.

  21. Penney, we’re so happy to hear that you enjoy reading our blog. Good luck with all of your writing endeavors!

  22. Great question, Gippy! Yes, you can certainly excerpt from a memoir that isn’t quite finished; you would just treat the essay as a stand alone piece, and would not mention that is part of a longer work. However, 4500 words is a tad long for an essay; you may want to try to shave off a few words to keep it between 2500-3000 words.

    That’s really great that you kept notes! Accuracy is very important in memoirs. You could get in sticky legal situations if you stray too far from the truth.

  23. This was wonderful to read, so informative. I immediately went to my library website and put Lee Gutkind’s book “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”, on reserve because this page was so good. I read this page and just continued hitting the links to others bits of information throughout, and couldn’t stop. I look forward to learning more from “Creative Non Fiction”.

  24. I am in the process of completing my creative non-fiction memoir covering a little over a year of cancer, death, 911 etc. with a spiritual theme. There is humor as well as drama. Because your publication accepts a word count of 4,500, is it acceptable to offer an excerpt from a memoir not quite finished?

    Also, upon reading the question above on this page in gold: I have quite a bit of dialog in my memoir, but it is totally true and accurate having kept daily notes throughout that time period.

    Thank you for your time, Gippy Henry

  25. I am so glad I found this website! As a newbie in the writing arena, I find a wealth of information here. Thank you.

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