This 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 A typical issue contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.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!
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.