What We’re Looking For: Nonfiction Editor

What is so lovely about creative nonfiction is the openness of the genre, the endless possibility for literary invention that comes with the telling of facts. Through creative nonfiction, writers can reveal everything – from an entire worldview to the smallest introspection. There’s Stephen King devoting a full book to the specifics (the “how to”) of becoming a better writer, On Writing (2001). Then simply, quietly, the same author in a two-page memoir details the four-decade history of his wedding ring and tells us all that he learned from that ring and how wearing it for forty-two years has made him a better person, “The Ring”, Tin House (Volume 15, No. 3).

The best creative nonfiction finds the space, the sweet spot (to quote from baseball), where the story becomes personal. Those are the stories that not only inform but also engage the reader, making us interested in things we didn’t even know we wanted to read about. Good writing, and where appropriate, good fact checking, are also essential to any submission. But that’s the voice of an editor.  As a reader, I am always looking for an author’s confidence, the kind that flows from the ability to say something at once deeply personal and yet universal in a way that is honest. It is how the author, Andrew McCarthy, takes command of his writing. Drawing from his travels to an island in the South Pacific, what he delivers is not a description, but a personal narrative detailing his quest for black pearls in Tahiti, “In Search of the Black Pearl” National Geographic Traveler (October 2010).

What I would most like to see in LUMINA are creative nonfiction selections that convey a personal truth from the author. Writing where details become tactile, where the author connects to the reader in a way that is interesting and revealing.

Pieces of creative nonfiction that have lingered with me (a few representative selections here) include: Aleksandar Hemon’s heartbreaking essay, “The Aquarium”, The New Yorker (June 23, 2011), too beautiful and personal for me to describe; anything by John McPhee, but take a look at “The Search for Marvin Gardens”, Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (2007), where the author braids two stories, his participation in a Monopoly tournament and a tour of Atlantic City in the 1970’s, learning, among other things, that while Marvin Gardens exists on the game board, it is not an actual street; and Iggy Pop’s wonderful “Caesar Lives”, Classics Ireland (Vol 2. 1995), a discussion and political commentary (as well as hearty recommendation) springing from the author’s reading of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Tell us your stories. We want to learn everything. How to be a better writer, how to be a better person. Make us believe that through your instruction, we will someday travel to Tahiti and dive for black pearls.

Melanie Anagnos
Melanie Anagnos, Nonfiction Editor, Vol. XV