Dinty W. Moore
by Angela M. Graziano
Interview with Dinty W. Moore, editor Brevity
W. Moore is the author of the memoir Between Panic & Desire
(University of Nebraska). His other
books include The
Buddhist, Toothpick Men, The Emperor’s Virtual Clothes,
and the writing
guide, The Truth of the
Art and Craft in Creative
Nonfiction. He has published essays and stories
in The Southern
The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday
Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, and
in the creative nonfiction PhD program at Ohio University.
interview with Dinty W. Moore, editor of Brevity. Brevity publishes
“concise literary nonfiction” of 750 words or less as well as book
reviews and craft essays. Read on for Moore’s thoughts on CNF, MFAs,
selecting submissions, and the beauty that is the Internet.
AMG: How did Brevity first come
about? What were some of the original goals for the journal?
Brevity began eleven years ago, as an experiment, more or less to see
if I could learn how to design a webpage. The web and HTML
fairly new at that time, hard to believe as that is, and I was
intrigued. So I started a magazine, imagining I might publish
three or four of my friends, and produce maybe two or three
issues. The idea, it seems, was stronger than my initial
commitment, because it is still here, and growing.
AMG: How did
you first stumble upon creative nonfiction?
I was actually an undergraduate student of Lee Gutkind back in the late
1970s. Gutkind is now the editor of the journal Creative
Nonfiction and one of the genre’s strongest proponents,
but at the time
Lee was teaching a course in what was commonly called “New Journalism,”
highlighting writers such as Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese. It
until I started graduate school in 1987, in fiction, that I started to
hear the term creative nonfiction and realize the connections.
AMG: On a
cultural level, what do you think is fueling the recent rise/interest
in creative nonfiction?
I’m not sure. I’d love to give you a smart answer here, and
heard various theories, but I’m just not sure.
changes and/or trends have you observed in creative nonfiction in
There is much more experimentation – with form, with voice, with
language and imagery – compared to ten years ago. The trend
pleases me the most is that the lines between the memoir, the personal
essay, literary journalism, and even the lyric essay, are blurring, so
that all of these various modes can live side-by-side, in one essay, or
one paragraph, or one sentence. There is some utility in
sub-genre distinctions – at least in teaching newcomers – but they
don’t need to be impermeable, and seasoned writers needn’t concern
themselves with “what kind of nonfiction is this?” It is good
writing, we are after, right?
It seems that students are beginning to enroll in MFA programs at a
younger age. What are your thoughts on younger CNF writers? Do you
think there is potential here for an interesting new perspective, or is
there a lack of “life experience?”
started my MFA
at age 32, so you can guess my answer. I think my graduate
student experience was far more valuable to me having already tried six
or seven other career paths – dancer, actor, journalist, tech writer,
waiter, experimental filmmaker, mopper of floors – and I certainly had
more to write about. That said, I’ve taught some outstanding
20-year-old writers, and know a good number of amazing writers in their
mid- to late-twenties. Life experience is great, but the real
determiner in nonfiction is the willingness to think, and to challenge
yourself in your thinking.
are your thoughts on MFAs in general? Are they a necessary component in
the shaping of a serious writer? What type of work do you see coming
out of MFA programs?
DM: No, the
MFA is not at all
necessary to become a serious writer. It is a great way to
immerse yourself in the craft and artistry, however, with other
dedicated folks. The MFA doesn’t grow non-writers into
it allows writers a fertile Petri dish within which to grow themselves.
Since online publications are able to update their work more
frequently, do you think they are a good venue for beginning writers to
solicit their work? Does the fact that these publications are “online”
help the beginning writer’s odds?
out over unfinished, poorly edited, stale writing no matter what the
venue, online or traditional. Five years ago, online journals were
certainly great beginner’s territory, but right now, 2008, I think the
playing field is about level between the print journals and the better
online journals. Brevity
is always looking for new voices, and we’ve
published some wonderful beginning writers, but I don’t think we are
any easier to crack than the print journals now. The volume
quality of our submissions is staggering.
AMG: Brevity accepts CNF
submissions of 750 words or less. Why stop at 750 words?
It started because I didn’t want to read long pieces on a computer
screen. Since then, I’ve learned all sorts of wonderful
about brief writing, flash nonfiction, micro-essays, and what I’ve
learned makes the short form all the more intriguing. But the real
first impulse was to save our eyesight.
AMG: When it
comes to Brevity’s
submissions, do you have a preference to certain styles and/or topics?
As soon as I say that I’m tired of a topic – love of grandparents, for
instance – someone submits an essay on that topic that blows my head
open. So we are open to anything, but try to be fresh, not
familiar and safe, and edit ruthlessly.
really makes a submission stand out?
Tight prose, from the first sentence to the end, and
Take the reader somewhere she didn’t realize the piece was going.
AMG: Are there
any trends you see (either positive and/or negative) in the submissions
A few years back, Brevity
was almost all memoir and scene until a few
writers called me to task for not publishing much in the way of the
ruminative or lyric essay. I made a concerted effort to widen
scope of our nonfiction, and it has paid off wonderfully. Now the
submissions reflect our wider scope, and I think the magazine is
better. Belated thanks to Pat, Desirae, and Shannon.
AMG: Can you
explain the reading/selection process at Brevity?
We accept e-mail submissions only, and each one is read by an
editor. Essentially, the pile is sorted into “not
Brevity” and “maybe,” and the “maybe” pile is then studied more closely
by multiple editors.
honest: do editors really care about the information provided in cover
letters when reading potential texts?
I try to read each entry with an open mind, but of course, to be
honest, when you see the name of an author whose work you have admired
in other journals, or when you see in the cover letter that the author
has published well in numerous respected journals, you probably visit
the first sentence with higher hopes. This is just human
nature. Yet, good work always wins the day.
publishes a nice selection of craft essays and book reviews. Do
you look for certain author credentials when publishing this sort of
DM: In most
cases, for Book Reviews and Craft Essays, I
have reached out to my friends and colleagues. We have just brought a
new Book Editor and Craft Editor onto the team, however, so we will be
accepting queries and submissions over the transom. See the
website for how these two sections develop – including, we hope, audio.
AMG: There are
so many online journals sprouting up nowadays. What do you do to help
Brevity stand out from the crowd?
much. I think our longevity and word-of-mouth are enough.
According to Brevity’s
website, you have a readership of roughly 12,000
visitors per issue. That’s a very strong number. What are some of the
publicity strategies behind a web-based journal as opposed to those of
a print journal?
DM: That’s the beauty
of it. I’ve
never purchased a single advertisement. Word of mouth, word
mouth, word of mouth. The internet truly is amazing.
AMG: Describe a typical
AMG: What are some
print/online journals that you read regularly?
Review, Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, Arts & Letters,
Diagram, Narrative, Etude, The Mississippi Review Web, The Exquisite
Corpse, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, West Branch,
New Ohio Review, Alimentum.
AMG: When it
comes to your own writing, which wins the battle – paper and pen or a
blinking cursor on the computer screen?
DM: Blinking cursor.
AMG: Where do
you see the future of Brevity?
DM: I couldn’t have
predicted the last ten years, so how can I honestly try to predict the
AMG: In a
word, describe Brevity.
About the Interviewer:
M. Graziano’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apple
Review, Ariel, Dislocate, A Long Story Short, Miranda Literary
Cheese Literary Journal, among others. She has an
MFA in creative nonfiction from Fairleigh Dickinson University in
Madison, New Jersey, where she teaches writing. She has recently
completed her first memoir.