Saturday, November 29, 2014

Condensing word count: an exercise in economy

In graduate school I got so accustomed to turning in the required 10- to 20-page submissions that all of my essays now tend to stretch to great lengths. Lucky for me, most literary journals accept works of 4-5,000 words. But when I recently decided to submit something to The East Bay Monthly with a word limit of just 900 (but a circulation of 62,000), I accepted the challenge to condense.

Scroll down and click on the link for "Big Brother" to view the result, online and in print this week!

Put down that Smartphone. Go ahead: Add an extra dollop of whipped cream to your hot cocoa, and let that lap-warming cat get comfortable. Time to settle in for seven very nice reads on a theme, "Something That Disappeared."

The Monthly solicited essay submissions from Bay Area writers for the annual winter literary issue, sharing these chosen few to share. This theme seemed well suited for contemplation and inspiration and prompted essayists to spin yarns and remembrances in unpredictable directions.

This charming collection include prose recounting a wild goose chase for lost keys, the pains of family disruption, an adios to youth, the bittersweet challenge of role reversal, the karma of bike theft, a Moonie conversion, and the wholesale hewing down of redwoods. They're funny and poignant, sassy and heartbreaking, even plucky, suspenseful and deeply thought. Well done.

Thanks so much to all who sent in submissions; narrowing the field was not an easy task, pleasurable as the submissions were. The good news is that The Monthly offers essay contests twice a year.

Keys
By L.J. Cranmer
A Berkeley housewife searches--and searches and searches--for her keys.

Loss of Place
By Anne Fox
An Oakland copyeditor recalls what being uprooted after fourth grade was like.

Start the Commotion
By Wendy Winter
A record store Dude drives a 40-year-old woman to tears in this reflection on lost youth.

Fading
By Caroline M. Grant
A San Francisco writer contemplates familial role reversal as she cares for her aging mother.

One Bike, Two Bikes, Not Bikes, New Bikes
By Kathy Hrastar
An Oakland writer muses on the karma of bike theft.

Big Brother
By Nicole R. Zimmerman
A Penngrove writer recalls losing her brother to the Moonies.

The Giving Trees
By Russell Yee
A third-generation Oaklander mulls over mass redwood clear-cutting and his own history.

2 comments:

rosaria williams said...

Nicole, you're always an inspiration to me!

Nicole R. Zimmerman said...

Rosario, your committed readership and kind support always inspires me to keep posting!

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