Please welcome back to the Editor’s Q&A corner Managing Editor of Creative Nonfiction, Hattie Fletcher. We talked to Hattie in 2015 and discussed writing opportunities at Creative Nonfiction. Today Hattie is going to bring us up to date on the latest submission opportunity at CNF– their brand new publication True Story.
Q: Many of the writers reading this interview will be familiar with Creative Nonfiction, but just in case, tell us a little bit about the publication and your background there.
A: Creative Nonfiction is in its third decade, actually, and it’s had the current magazine format since 2010; I’ve been the managing editor since 2004. The magazine is sort of a hybrid; the heart of every issue is a group of between five and ten original essays organized around a single theme, as in a traditional literary magazine, and around that there’s a mix of interviews, criticism, explorations of craft, “experimental” work (whatever that means), and every issue ends with a collection of micro-essays—our favorite submissions to the #cnftweet challenge we run on Twitter. We really try to showcase and explore the creative nonfiction genre in as many ways as possible.
Q: A few months ago I learned about a new magazine Creative Nonfiction is publishing with Support from The National Endowment for the Arts. What we can expect from True Story.
A: I am so excited about True Story, which is a pocket-size print (and digital) magazine that will feature one exceptional piece of longform every month. A small magazine with a big story, in other words.
I think there were three big factors in our thinking, and it was one of those lovely grant applications that sort of writes itself because it all makes so much sense.
First, before we moved to publishing only theme-centered issues, we had an issue with our submissions process: even if a piece was really terrific, it was hard to move ahead with accepting it until we knew how it would work with other pieces or what issue it would fit in, and as a result, we often had a small pile of great stuff that stalled in our process (and usually ended up being accepted elsewhere). That was not a great situation for our editors, nor for writers. True Story will feature one exceptional piece of longform (5,000-10,000 words) nonfiction each month; if we love something, we’ll be able to accept it, and probably publish it relatively quickly.
Plus, there aren’t many great homes–especially print homes–for longform, so we’re really excited to be able to have a new space for in-depth, ambitious writing. The first three issues really range pretty widely in voice and approach and subject matter—from a long, reported piece about a pair of brothers who as teenagers recorded an album that became a hit when they were in their fifties, to an intensely suspenseful personal story about going to a shooting range out in the desert with an abusive family member.
Finally, in CNF reader surveys, the most consistent feedback we get is that readers wish we published more often, so for those readers, True Story will be sort of a snack in between issues of the bigger quarterly. And of course we hope that a smaller, less expensive magazine might appeal to new readers, as well—and maybe especially to younger readers.
Q: The guidelines for submitting are intriguing, because they are pretty loose. Share with writers what they need to know as they craft submissions.
A: The guidelines are very loose! Because each issue is just one piece, we have so much flexibility, and I’m excited to explore the possibilities. It’s got to be nonfiction, of course, and it’s got to be long enough to make something substantial enough to mail out, but beyond that, we’re open to pretty much anything. We’ve given a guideline of 5,000 – 10,000 words, but that’s not to say we couldn’t publish a collection of short pieces, if they all worked together. I can also imagine the format working well for a graphic piece. Surprise us!
Q: Will the same editors from Creative Nonfiction be reading submissions, or does True Story have a different dedicated staff?
It’s all the same staff! We do expect that True Story will offer some new opportunities for our interns—in particular, because the turnaround is shorter, they’ll be able to see a whole issue through, and because the design is simpler, we’ll be doing all the typesetting in-house, which is not the case for Creative Nonfiction.
Q: Are there any qualities you know are going to help launch a submission into acceptance?
A: We’re really open to just about anything. That said, a piece has to be pretty special to be able to stand alone as a whole issue of a magazine. We’ve received some very good essays that have lacked the sort of oomph that would make them work for True Story; we’re looking for stories that are really unusual or very suspenseful or have a major plot twist, or something extraordinary.
Q: What payment can authors expect if their piece is accepted?
A: $300 plus 10 copies of the issue. Plus, because the whole issue is just the one piece, it’s a really nice showcase for a writer—almost like a chapbook.
Q: Once we hit ‘submit’ how long should we plan to bite our nails until we hear back?
A: We’re trying to read very quickly, but remember these are all long stories (and since we opened submissions we’ve received nearly 1,000 of them), so in general it still takes as long as a few months for one piece to go through our reading process.
Q: Do you accept international submissions?
A: We do accept international submissions!
Q: You charge just a smidgen of a submission fee, tell us what that goes towards and your awesome submit-and-subscribe option.
A: Like many other magazines, we charge a $3 submission fee for online submissions, which covers the cost of using Submittable and also helps offset the expense of making the magazine and paying writers and editors, etc. Unlike many magazines, however, we waive the submission fee for subscribers. If you’re not currently a subscriber, you can subscribe when you’re submitting.
Q: If someone reading this wants to do their homework and read an issue before they submit, where can they subscribe to True Story?
A: Subscriptions are available through CNF’s website; you can subscribe to True Story alone, or combine a subscription with a subscription to the quarterly. But the good news is that if you’re just looking for a sample issue, a single copy is only $3.
Q: What’s next for Creative Nonfiction and True Story?
A: Oh, gosh: I think mostly we’re hoping to have at least a few months to just get the hang of juggling production schedules for two magazines. But we’re also working on the plans for this spring’s Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference in Pittsburgh … It’s always Memorial Day weekend, and we’ll have more details about that soon!
Find full submission guidelines for True Story HERE
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