Saturday, December 13, 2014

Where to Publish Creative Nonfiction

Below is a list of more than 100 literary journals and magazines that publish personal essays and other creative nonfiction. Some pay. Some don't. I plan to update this list and add to it, so if I missed anything, let me know. Happy publishing!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Redefining Adulthood


I want to be a grownup. Scratch that. I am a grownup, but the definition of adulthood is in the continuous process of adjustment. When I was a kid, and even a post-college adult-in-training, my definition—or requirement—for myself to obtain the official status of “grownup” included having my own family. Reality and biology veered in different directions as I found myself childless without a partner as a result of questionable decisions, abysmal timing, and plain bad luck. Between 38 and 40, I mourned. I was at the peak of loss. It was as if a tiny person or persons who should have sprung from my womb had perished, only they were never born in the first place. There was an absence, an emptiness, a giant baby-size hole looming next to me—and sometimes deep in my gut. The pain, sometimes a dull ache, and other times debilitating, came with little warning almost overnight. I shared this pain with others in the same situation: women with much to give and no one to give it to.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

You in Pisa, 1990. Fashion rule number one: Don't ever wear a fanny pack, for crying out loud.

Dear Teenage Self:

Okay, here’s the deal. You’re currently sitting in a windowless room in a high school built like a fortress; you’re surrounded by other sweaty teenagers, your anxiety swelling. You feel trapped. You think high school is the worst it’s going to get. Sadly, you’re wrong. Your mistakes are going to get more plentiful, meaningful, and painful as you get older. You have it easy. (No, seriously, don’t laugh.) You’re only 16 and barely have any responsibilities. That Algebra II homework you’re stressing about? Don’t. Worried about dropping out of AP Bio and not even signing up for AP Lit? Forget it. You won’t even remember your grades after you get to college. There is no such thing as a permanent record.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Super Star - Chelsey Drysdale on Shawna Kenney

Shawna Kenney (left) and Chelsey Drysdale (me!) in San Francisco before our Book Lovers reading in Oakland

My 2013 New Year’s resolution was to start writing again. I’d taken a number of online classes before, but I hadn’t written a word in two years; my latest workshop had deflated me. There I felt judged on my character rather than my work. I was labeled based on one essay about one incident. The responses drove me into hiding.

I’m not good enough. This is as far as I’m going to get, I thought.

But when I’m not writing, my soul suffers.

So, after a two-year ego-healing break, I decided to try again. This time I wasn’t going to hide behind the Internet. I wanted face-to-face interaction with other writers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rats, Chick Fights, and a Rooster

I lived with my parents for the fourth time in my late 30s for three years while chipping away at my credit card balance. As a debt-free woman of 40, I figured it was probably a good idea to move out again. I was excited by the prospect of living alone, with my own space and my own furniture, with no roommates to mess up the kitchen, take over the TV, or dirty up the bathroom. 

My friend found a tiny back house while in her pajamas walking her dog last November early in the morning. The “for rent” sign had just been posted. The house has its own lemon tree, sits upstairs above a laundry room and a garage, behind a two-story duplex in a quaint neighborhood that circles grassy parks with tall trees, where people convene after work for puppy parties—a park my toddler nephew has now claimed; he runs in circles trying to climb the largest tree trunk.

To an outsider, this neighborhood is Pleasantville in color. Everyone knows everyone. People smile and wave from across the street. Homeowners pull trash bins back in the second the trash truck empties them. Yards are well kept. Porches are well swept. The next door neighbor brought me fresh eggs from his chickens when I moved in. The chickens don’t cluck until everyone is awake—usually. It’s like living next to a farm, instead of the middle of Long Beach, California. At first it was endearing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Smith Mag Memoirist of the Month

I was the Smith Magazine Memoirist of the Month. Here's the feature they posted for July:

Monday, June 23, 2014


When Granny was 82, she showed me the cavernous space where her breast had been removed.
"Wanna see the ugly?”
"No," I said, flinching.
She lifted her nightshirt anyway. A black jagged line sliced across the concave, saggy skin where half her womanhood had been erased. No nipple, nothing.
I sucked air through my teeth.
"Oh, Granny, that hurts. Are they going to take the stitches out, or…"
"They already did."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Webinar: How to Write a Memoir That Will Attract the Attention of Agents and Editors

On June 16, Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers ( presented a webinar on writing memoirs that attract the attention of agents and editors. Below are some of their thoughts:

Writing for yourself vs. writing for others.

Brooke: The reader should be able to take something away from your project: universal truths. Readers want to be mirrored. Julia Scheeres, the author of Jesus Land, said emphatically, “You write for yourself.”

I absolutely have changed my tune [about thinking you write for others]. It’s both; you write for both.

Linda: I was too far on the “write for yourself” side. Now we’re both in the middle. You have to write for others if you want to get published.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What I Learned in College

I just found a journal entry from March 20, 1996, the day before I finished my last undergraduate class at the University of California, Irvine. I was 22-years-old. I completed my last final on March 21st thinking, "Now what?" I had no clue what I was going to do with my life. (I still don't at 41.) The only plan I had was to go to the student center and buy an alumni sweatshirt, which I did. Then I had a beer and went back to work as a food server with an English degree.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

“What is Wrong with Me?”

Happier Hours

with Sara Eckel, author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single
and Heather Havrilesky, author of Disaster Preparedness


(Hosted by Jillian Lauren, author of Some Girls and Pretty, and Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance)

I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon at Meghan Daum’s house (author of Life Would Be Perfect if I lived in That House and My Misspent Youth) with welcoming, intelligent, hilarious writers. Heather Havrilesky and Sara Eckel read from their books and led a conversation about singledom, the positivity of negativity, and how “inspiration” can be a turnoff. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 – Publishing: the Editor’s Voice

Dan Smetanka – Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press
Bart Schneider – Kelly’s Cove Press
Deena Drewis – Nouvella
Peter Ginna – Bloomsbury Press
Ethan Nosowsky – Graywolf Press

Random thoughts from the editor’s perspective

Smetanka called the panel “organic, free-range editors. It’s rare to see them in daylight.”

Nosowsky:  (He recently published The Empathy Exams, a collection of essays that hit the NY Times list.) Graywolf Press is a small nonprofit press. Books of essays are conventionally thought to be not commercial. Luck is a huge, huge side of publishing. This book was just one we really liked. We thought, “This feels different.” It’s getting a ton of good press. A really good book + a lot of hard work + a little bit of luck = good fortune.

Drewis: (About publishing Novellas) There was a niche to fill. We’re actively pursuing authors. We read literary magazine. (Novellas are 10,000 to 40,000 words.) When a good book is a good book, it’s a good book. A collection of essays that does well rises out of the ashes of what publishers think is publishable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 - Publishing: Inside the Literary Magazine

Robert Scheer:
Oscar Villalon: Zyzzyva
Bruce Bauman: Black Clock
Jon Christensen: Boom
Tom Lutz: Los Angeles Review of Books

Random thoughts on publishing in a literary magazine

Christensen: (About his goals) I want to host a lively dinner party with passionate conversation. That’s the voice we’re looking for. A magazine is an evocative object that sits on your coffee table for three months.

Villalon: We focus mainly on West Coast writers and artists: California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Alaska. And we promote emerging writers. (They have a feature called “First Time in Print.”) Zyzzyva is published three times per year.

Scheer: You’re supposed to kick ass and make waves. Most of the print stuff is gone. There is something exciting about electronic publishing. The Internet is the most liberating and the most threatening. ( has been around for nine years and has five Webby Awards.) (He mentioned the website’s first big story was written by Pat Tillman’s brother about his death, saying many people globally read it within 24 hours.) You can find a massive audience all over the world, but [the Internet] is a fragile business model. (He called Snowden a hero.) Google and Yahoo destroyed our privacy (mining data and targeting ads), not the NSA. Invasive gathering of data would be a wet dream for Hitler and Stalin. [Online] shopping is the greatest expression of modern freedom. The consumer impulse and totalitarian impulse are tied together.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 - Nonfiction: The Art of the Personal Story

Meghan Daum: moderator, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
Leslie Jamison: The Empathy Exams
Dinah Lenney: The Object Parade
Leo Braudy: Trying to be Cool: Growing Up in the 1950s
Pico Iyer: The Man Within My Head

Random thoughts on writing about oneself

Iyer: Growing up in England, you’re taught to be as impersonal as possible. Through the mask of the impersonal, you reveal things you wouldn’t normally share.

Braudy: I grew up in the 1950s. There was an impersonality in general.

Jamison: When gazing at an object outside the self, it brings the self to bear. When I rise up to meet the external thing, everything I’ve ever lived is part of that. I started off writing fiction. I follow where the energy feels, what my heart has something to say about.

Braudy: Stick to emotional certainty, if not factual truth. I had to free myself to get at emotional truth. (Events are out of order. Characters are blended.) I gave all my friends different names.

Iyer: Memoir is always fiction. Nonfiction takes liberties with facts, and fiction tends to draw from real events and real emotions. The personal parts are slippery. That doesn’t matter. Emotional truth matters. The destination is the imagination of the reader. I didn’t want this book to be categorized. It’s not nonfiction or fiction. (He took out the original subtitle after a year of debate because it made it sound like a nonfiction book.)

Monday, March 17, 2014


    On Super Bowl Sunday, while I lay on a yoga mat in my writing workshop, instead of overeating and watching a blowout on TV, I breathed in and out deeply as instructed during guided meditation. And yet, my heart was pounding from nervousness at getting meditation wrong somehow.

    I have anxiety in situations like this when anxiety is supposed to be furthest from my mind, like sometimes when I get a massage and my face is in that little squishy doughnut, or when I used to leave a yoga class and get in my car to drive away from the peaceful space ten years ago. It’s in my DNA. I am constantly fighting the battle against genetics, and mostly losing. I hate it. I often find myself thinking, Why can’t I just be normal?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Drunk Girls in Bars

In my twenties, my oldest friend and I used to discuss the idea of writing a coffee table book dedicated to all the bizarre conversations we overheard in late-night bar bathrooms, dance clubs, etc. Basically anywhere you'd find drunk girls in their early twenties acting ridiculous and verbalizing it. While we too had our moments of inebriation, we never fell into quite that category. I always felt a tad out of place in the wee hours before last call when girls discussed the boys they liked who were sitting merely feet away inside the bar. It was mind-boggling the stuff they'd spout in public in front of everyone. It's a strange phenomenon, women using the bar bathroom to share their feelings. We well know men use the bathroom to, well, use the bathroom. Girls are so much chattier and cattier.

I also have often wondered what the restroom attendants must be thinking. They have to deal with the scene all night. And while these hired paper-towel-hander-outers are quiet and complacent, I thought about what could possibly going through their heads while working that thankless job that always makes me feel uncomfortable and sorry for them. They are the "eyes and ears of this institution," like the janitor in the high school. (I can't ever seem to get away completely from Breakfast Club references.)

What if those women, underneath it all, are actually angry and bitter, despite acting so normal and friendly? Even if they really aren't, I thought it would be funny to explore their thinking as if they were. In that vein, here's a piece inspired by McSweeney's short imagined monologues based on what might be going through a bathroom attendant's mind while she works. While this is a work of fiction, I have observed most everything that's in it as a patron of a bar who just wants to pee. (The barfing scene is straight out of Vegas.)