Nonfiction is content, sometimes presented in the form of a story, presented as truthful and accurate depictions of people or events. Using simplicity, clarity, and directness, the specific facts and assertions may or may not be true depending on the biases and preferences of the author, however, they are presented as empirically and historically factual.
Like fiction, it can take many forms. Journals, photographs, textbooks, travel books, blueprints, diagrams, biographies, memoirs, profiles, these are all forms of nonfiction prose. They tell of real people and real places. But there is something intangible about nonfiction as well. It is or can be depending on the razor-sharp wit, eagle eye, or discerning tongue, a moment of realization. It may tell simple truths or portray epic vistas. It is truthful but may not always be true. Nonfiction is subjective. It is the world as seen through the author's eyes. The truth as they see it.
We hope you enjoy the work of these talented authors. We applaud all of our contributors and encourage everyone to continue to follow their artistic and literary dreams. For those whose works we’ve selected, we hope this is just the beginning of an illustrious career in the arts.
by Brigitte Whiting
This past summer and fall upturned me. The birdfeeder, usually so generous, abdicated her job, and I had to scrounge for food during the long wet season. My mother told me it was unusual to have such a rainy August and October. She would know. I was born in mid-spring so I could only know what I lived with now. It was hot, or it rained, or it was cold.
I was still just a kid, so I played with my siblings. We red squirrels enjoyed romping and chasing each other through dark tunnels and around tree trunks while our mother watched us from a low tree branch or sat in the grass.
Then one day, she told us, "It's time for you to fend for yourselves. Snow and cold will soon be here. We reds need to eat every day so we must store food. Find a home and make it snug and dry using leaves." She looked up and around at the grass
She continued. "If you use your noses and eyes, you'll find acorns under the leaves. Bury as many of those as you can but remember where you put them. You'll be glad you did when it gets cold."
I shivered at the thought of cold air and I balked at
by Joy Manné
This essay is part of a Talk-Back series – I owe that title to Karen. A Talk-Back is my response to a chapter in a WVU textbook, my communication with its author.
This Talk-Back is a response to the exercise in Lia Purpura’s chapter, ‘On Miniatures,’ (Flash-Non-Fiction, Rose Metal Press, p.4-5) where the instructions are ‘Take an essay you’ve been working on and read it aloud to yourself in a fresh place. Reading in the car at a red light … In a coffee shop (best in another country) … In a library …’
You instruct me to take one of my essays to a completely new and unfamiliar space and once there, to read it aloud to myself and note what strikes me.
But I do not know how to write an essay in Flash Non-Fiction. I’ve written many essays in my time: school essays, university essays, reaction and response essays, articles on various subjects including Conscious Breathing
‘Take your essay,’ you command me, as if I have many of these WIPs lying on my desktop, or in desk drawers, or on the floor under my computer, or on the...
by Lina Sophia Rossi
“Why the F--- Do I want to see
The last time I hung out with my Uncle Dan is when I dragged him to Gatorland to do something touristic. He flew down from NYC to Orlando, FL to visit me for about a week. Time flies as they say and he was going to fly back the next day. He was a recent widower and had just had a lobectomy for lung cancer. I felt bad, I was working a lot and all he wanted to do was hang out in a bar restaurant. Uncle Dan was a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart.
He was my father’s mother’s brother. My father was very close to him. Uncle Dan and his wife, Aunt Nellie (for Immaculata), were my brother’s Godparents. Uncle Dan was in the Navy, like my dad and my brother. Uncle Dan served in WWII. For a social studies project in junior high, I interviewed him and his brother, Pat (Pasquale) who was in the Army, about their WWII service. Uncle Dan was a gunner’s mate on the Navy cruiser USS Canberra, which was torpedoed during the aerial battle of Taiwan-Okinawa. The ship took on water from a blast in the hull and he had to drag dead sailors who were sleeping in their barracks out. I guess he was a bit shell-shocked, but nothing...
by Angela Hess
“Does he look at you?”
My cousin’s innocent question triggers a flashing red warning light in my brain. My baby doesn’t look at me. I assumed he was too young still, but my cousin’s baby is only four days older than mine, and they are already getting smiles from him. My baby is a week shy of two months. I know what the doctor will ask me at his two-month check-up: does he make eye contact? And I know the diagnosis they will start watching for if I say no.: Autism.
My brother is autistic. My husband managed several group homes. I did respite work with a young man with Down syndrome. We are not strangers to the world of individuals with disabilities. But as I stare at my baby with his thick dark hair and his big blue eyes staring off into the distance, willing him to look at me, that word looms large in my mind, taking on substance, and as the reality of it hits me, I feel myself emotionally withdrawing from him. As if an autism diagnosis would make him less worthy of my love. As if he and his life would be of less value with that label attached to them. And I know, whether my child is autistic or not, I need to work through these thoughts and feelings. Unravel the tangled web of my subconscious thoughts to discover the triggers for my emotional withdrawal. The...
by Louise E. Sawyer
It is a joy to hold a lovely scene, a delightful moment, in memory.
Frank was four and I was five and getting ready to start school when Dad and Mom moved us into a new house on Glasgow Avenue—a three-bedroom home that wasn't quite finished—in a suburban area of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was very exciting because we moved next door to Grannie Price and our aunt Lil. About two years later, Aunt Lil married Uncle Rod and their first daughter, Barbie, was born.
I remember we three kids, toddler Barbie, my brother Frank, and me, sitting beside Grannie on the couch, listening to Winnie the Pooh stories told in Grannie's Pooh voice, Piglet voice, and Eeyore voice. Oh, do we remember Eeyore whom Grannie loved to mimic at any time during the day? "Somebody must have taken it." How
We enjoyed the neighborhood of middle-class families with backyard gardens, a Scout hall next door, cats and dogs, a vet family down the street, and neighbors across from us who owned a black-and-white TV. We never had a TV in that house. I grew up with stories, books, comics, music lessons, and church, and playing on the street!
As children, we happily roamed the street with wagons, roller skates, stilts, bikes, and snakes. Yes, the boys loved to scare me by throwing...
by Albert Orjuela
At some point, everything comes to an apex. Status quo can only persist for so long before the natural balance of the universe calls for consumption, and then it all comes down to a choice. That’s it, a lone decision that ultimately leads down a pathway to a higher level or otherwise ends in destruction. The evolution of everything can be traced back to that specific point in time, the single particular moment where a decision must be made. Whether it is decided using a refined skill or purely on the basis of intuition, the consequence is being eaten instead of eating. And this is that moment for me.
Billions of years ago, there was an instant that ultimately resulted in the creation of the human race. 200,000 years of good choices and human civilization has not only continued, we’ve flourished. Great things have been accomplished, and we’ve grown so much… possibly too much. On a cosmic scale, we quickly arrived at what may be our pinnacle. Because the outcome of this moment will determine if everything we’ve ever done in our history has value or, instead, becomes completely meaningless. Either the last few hundred millennia have been a complete waste of time or the universe, as we know it, will continue to exist (at least for another moment). As what happens right here, after this very second, could undo the very nature of time and destroy the fabric of space.
My wife said...
by Carolann Malley
Sending your writing out into the world can be scary whether you write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. But, at some point, if you are a serious writer, you will do it. Getting a rejection letter back can be more devastating than asking a girl out as a teenager and being turned down or sitting at a dance with no partner—all night. It can make you doubt yourself, but it shouldn’t.
I’ve been on both sides of the publishing fence. I’ve written poetry and sent it out hoping some editor would like my poems and decide to publish them. I have submitted work which was accepted on the first submission. I have submitted work which was rejected by one journal and accepted by another, and I’ve sent out work to have it turned down by journal after journal. I’ve also been the poetry editor for a literary journal and made the decision about whose poem to publish from the thousands received. Along with that responsibility came the job of sending out those dreaded rejection letters. At times, I rejected poems that I loved because the journal just didn’t have the space for one more poem.
Based on my experience as a poet, fiction writer, nonfiction writer, and as a poetry editor and writing teacher, I sometimes give advice to friends, associates, and students who become discouraged when they send out their work only to have it rejected.
Don’t feel bad when you receive your first, second, ...
by Brigitte Whiting
I took an hour to walk outdoors in my yard, first to clip dead honeysuckle branches, pluck dandelions, and then to fill the birdbaths and feeders. And to ponder what to write about one of my backyard neighbors, the gray squirrel, Sciurus
Gray squirrels live either in dens, holes in living trees woodpeckers have abandoned, or nests—drays—they build in the forks of trees using twigs and dry leaves. Their work of upkeep continues year-round. One winter day, I jammed my snow shovel into a section of torn carpet on the deck and wondered how I'd cut it, but later, I happened to notice a squirrel ripping and tugging the carpet for chunks to line her nest. During cold winter spells, several squirrels may share a nest for warmth. Otherwise, an individual squirrel or a mother with her young—she has one or two litters with three or four kits a year—lives there.
Squirrels are inquisitive and aware of their surroundings. Anytime I move a chair or add a feeder on the deck, they'll slink to each changed item, sniffing it, and creeping in closer to examine it until they deem it harmless.
by Angela Hess
My four-year-old son has a friend over. I overhear my son’s friend tell my two-year-old daughter, “Gracie, you can’t come in here.” Then my son’s voice: “It’s okay, she can play with us. Here, Gracie,” he says, presumably handing her one of the toys they are playing with. My
It’s my senior year of high school. My sister is a sophomore, two years younger than me, and struggling with friends. My mom suggests that my sister
by Angela Hess
I can hear my parents’ raised voices upstairs. They are fighting again. I turn on the sink faucet, letting the sound of the running water drown out their voices. I thrust my hands in the nearly scalding hot water and methodically scrub each dish in the sink and load it in the dishwasher. Then I do the hand wash, soaking, scrubbing, rinsing, drying, and carefully putting away each piece. The ritual of tidying up the kitchen eases my anxiety about my parents’ argument. I can’t stop them from arguing, but I can make our home a cleaner and more pleasant place to live in hopes of soothing the frustration and hurt feelings.
My dad always occupies himself with something after a fight to let off steam. My mom usually cries. When I hear my dad turn on the TV, I creep upstairs. My mom is sitting on the floor in her room, back against the wall, knees drawn up to her chest, wiping at the tears streaming down her face. I slowly and carefully seat myself on the floor in front of her, my chin resting on my knee. I wait for her to talk. I don’t remember what their fight was about; I just remember that my mom needed someone to listen and validate her thoughts and feelings. I listened. She needed someone to reassure her that it was my father that was being unreasonable, not her. I reassured her.
One time I was...
by Brigitte Whiting
I'm sorry that I hadn't thought of how I would take care of a puppy. It had seemed like a good idea, accept the gift of a puppy from acquaintances. She had the coloring of a coyote and was named Brindle for those tawny markings. I'd never had a dog before. Growing up, my family had only cats, mousers. But I hadn't wanted to say no to this cute little dog.
So I brought her into my rented single-room cottage and left her there most of the day while I went to college classes. I taught her the basic tricks: beg, roll over, sit, and she learned each of them in a single lesson. After we got through the newspaper training period, she held her bladder until I got home.
I drove a white '54 Chevy with an automatic transmission, a car that when I first bought it for $75 leaked oil so badly I wasn't allowed to park it on friends' paved driveways. It turned out it had an oil pan leak that was easily fixable. The car lumbered around corners but it was transportation to and from school and work. I took Brindle in it on errands, to the grocery store where several times a stocking clerk tapped me on the shoulder to tell me my dog was inside, and I'd chase her back outside and instruct her to go back to the car, but as I made my rounds pushing the...
by Louise E. Sawyer
It was Christmas Day 1950 and my sixth birthday. Under the tree was an unusually long, large box with my name on it. I was excited to open it. I couldn’t wait. When I finally did, I was amazed to look upon the most gorgeous doll I’d ever seen. She was 24” long, like a three-month-old baby, and I gently drew her close to my chest. I adopted her immediately as my baby.
My doll had wavy and curly brown hair. Her smile was painted on her face but her blue eyes blinked. She cried like a baby when I picked her up. I was thrilled to the depth of my being. I felt a sense of oneness and a desire to care for my baby with her soft cloth body and her tiny hard fingers and toes.
Her name was Baby Precious.
The gift was supposed to be special. My grandmother, aunt, and uncle-to-be gave the doll to me because they realized life was changing for them. My aunt and uncle-to-be were planning to get married the next year. Indeed, they did, and there is a photo of me with my hair in pin curls and I’m holding Baby Precious. I was getting ready as a junior bridesmaid to wear my long turquoise dress and lead the wedding procession down the aisle of our chapel.
Baby Precious was my most precious possession as a child but what I didn’t know was that she would provide emotional...
by M Clare Paris
I think about death quite a bit. Not morbidly, nor do I worry about what happens when one dies. Although I enjoy a spiritual life, I am also philosophical about the end of my life. If there is something else, it will be darned interesting. If there isn’t, I won’t know or care! Most of my concerns have to do with my beloved family I will leave behind.
I have a kind of cancer that keeps on giving. I am presumed free of cancer at the moment, but even that is not certain. Since it could crop up in any organ, but scans only see down to a certain size, a new bit could be incubating. And while we will certainly fight it for as long as is reasonable, it is also reasonable to assume that, at some point, either I will become tired of the fight or it will overwhelm all defenses.
I’m not being negative, here. But I maintain my right to be aware and practical and real about my prognosis. In the meantime, I am doing my best to really enjoy my life, especially by spending time with my mother, my grown daughters, my grandchildren, and my husband. Even those opportunities are sometimes curtailed by complications in my health care.
The things I am concerned with are these: I worry that my girls won’t have the answers they crave when they think of half-remembered stories of my life and theirs
by Louise E. Sawyer
My father, Thomas George Sawyer, was absent at my birth and absent the first seven months of my life.
It was Christmas Eve 1944 at the two-story white house on Beechwood Drive-my Grannie’s house in Victoria, the capital city of British Colombia on Vancouver Island. Grannie Price, my mother Ethel, and my aunt Lil invited my father’s sister-in-law Margaret and her two girlies, Betty and Peggy, over for dinner to celebrate Christmas together, since Ethel’s husband Tom and Margaret’s husband Bill were officers in the Canadian Air Force in England.
I'm sure the women were dressed in their best dresses, skirts, and sweaters, complete with brooches. And the two little girlies looked cute with their curly hair and party dresses. Grannie was hosting the meal and handed bowls of food to her daughters, Ethel and Lilian, as she scooped up mashed potatoes and gravy from the pots on the wood stove.
It was a somber time for everyone with the men gone. Who knew what was happening to them each day and what the future would bring? It was all so secretive. The wives knew nothing concerning the details. Where were they right now? Were they on a bombing mission? But my Grannie and her daughters did their best to entertain their guest and her little children. I'm sure they served up smiles and laughter as they all settled down to eat.
My mother, Ethel Louise, was big with child, due on New Year’s Day, and did her best...
by Brigitte Whiting
I'm always looking for ideas to use in writing: for that prompt at which I first gulp and then slowly retrieve some thread of an idea, for the poem I need for the Monday morning poetry group, for an essay that's due in two days.
I've heeded artists' advice and taken excursions. To art galleries. On field trips to museums, a cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee, to a playhouse. Infrequent flights out West when I peered down at meandering rivers, knobby mountain ranges, the scattered lights of tiny towns on a vast dark prairie and wished I knew where I was on the map.
When I've walked through nearby state parks or parked at the lake, I've pondered which words to use to describe the settings. Later, what I remembered were the brilliant red maple leaves carpeting the dry grey sand and a red squirrel quarreling with me over an acorn. And sitting on a green bench set along what used to be the tramline to the Poland Spring Inn when a midsize dog jumped up next to me, its toenails clicking on the boards, its owner not far behind. "Pay attention," I'd reminded myself after that.
I'd gone on one field trip in which the drive through western Maine and into New Hampshire was one my husband and I had taken many times but this time the route seemed unfamiliar and I'd wished I'd brought a map—wherever we'd driven, I was always the copilot with...
by Brigitte Whiting
Last spring, a wild turkey hen incubated her eggs for twenty-eight days. When they hatched, she scrambled to keep up with them. Poults to scientific literature. Babies to her. She didn't need to teach them to scratch for bugs—they came with that instinct. Nighttimes during their first four weeks, she sheltered them in their nest on the ground to protect them from predators and the weather.
She'd started with a dozen poults. Some were stolen by coyotes and raccoons, others died from
Each day they walked through the woods and yards searching for food. Beneath some birdfeeders, they scratched through sunflowers shells for kernels and insects. "I remember," she said, "when pickings were easy here. Alas,
"I wish I could fly now," her oldest poult said, and took off running, its still-short neck pulling it forward, its stubs of wings flapping, its thin legs running, but no lift-off.
"Wait a few days," she said.
Mornings and afternoons, she, the other two hens, and their nine poults scratched through the grasses and mosses, nipped leaves, and swallowed last year's acorns and seeds whole. When they moved from one yard...
by Joy Manné and Karen Barr
Teacher – Karen Barr
Student – Joy Manné
WELCOME TO WEEK 8 OF SUBTEXT.
There is no word count, but the challenge is to get all ten types of subtext in as few words as possible. Here they are:
Show don’t Tell:Using emotions and motivations indirectly and concisely, either by behaviors, body language, suggestive dialogue, internal thoughts or setting clues. The 2. Unspeakable:A complex set of desires and fears that can’t be efficiently described, a pileup of emotions that resists easy articulation. 3. Mania: An emotional overinvestment in any object that can’t possibly give back what the individual wants from it. 4. Wrecked by success: What if wishes and fantasies turn out more powerful than their real-life satisfactions? 5. Unthinkable thought: A thought that threatens a character’s entire existence, it is subversive and is thought of, but gets pushed out of the mind. You can think anything you wish, but you can’t always say aloud what you really crave or desire, sometimes for whatever reason, it’s just unmentionable. 6. Denial: A chaotic way of not hearing dangerous or intolerable information. 7. Indifference-Unhearing: It is not a form of denial but a kind of psychic impermeability, a mode where nothing gets through—an unattended switchboard. In this mode, the pain of others becomes bothersome, an annoyance. 8. Filtering: In the era of multi-tasking, people probably talk more and listen less than they ever did. Talk is cheap and has been for some time, ...
by Danielle Dayney
I woke to warm, gooey air smothering me even though the ceiling fan was spinning on high. Dangling lightpulls smacked and banged the glass globe with each rotation of the blades. The base of the fan swayed and groaned, ready to jump from its screws in the drywall any second.
I blinked, trying to focus on my alarm clock. One forty-five. No doubt everyone in my house was sleeping: Dad on the couch with the remote resting in his hand, Mom in her room, reading glasses still on her nose, and my sister here or at a friend’s. Mom was more lenient with her. First daughters always have it the worst.
Moonlight seeped between the tree branches and into my bedroom window, providing the only light. Clothes were strewn about in piles on the floor. I rolled my eyes because Mom would make me clean them up tomorrow.
Until then, they would stay in heaps.
I spent hours buttering breadsticks and cooking pasta at work all day. And the day before. And almost every day since I turned sixteen. I had to pay for my own sneakers and shampoo unless I wanted what Mom could afford to buy.
Anxious and unable to return to sleep, I tossed the sheets onto the floor with the rest of the mess.
I glanced outside my second-floor window. It reminded me of a photo: so still and quiet. Below, blades of grass held their breath. Above, Stars burned...
by Harry C. Hobbs
The mother and father watched as the sun rose on a cold morning in February 1945, wondering if their four-month-old son had lived through the night. Could miracles really happen? Perhaps this child they had wanted so badly wanted wasn’t meant to survive. His mother was a month past her 31st birthday when she married a man some six years older. For her, even finding a husband was nothing short of miraculous.
She was the eldest of five children but the last in her family to marry. Her parents had opposed the wedding from the start reminding their daughter of her poor health. She’d had one nervous breakdown and a lot of illness caused by a dead kidney which had to be removed. "How could you even think about marrying?" her parents had chided her, "With your age and health, marrying and having children are unthinkable."
Despite her parent’s admonishments, the couple wanted a child and seven years after their wedding, their dream seemed to have come true. A healthy baby arrived on the scene and his mother’s health did not seem compromised in any way.
But everything changed in a few months. The couple had just moved from Toronto to Ottawa where the husband was stationed at military headquarters. She had counted herself lucky to have found a doctor as they were in short supply for civilians. She took the child to visit Dr. Cameron for a three-month checkup. Days later, the baby was running a...
by Cynthia Reed
When I flew to California in September, the golden archipelago summer, verdant below and mazarine above, still held sway. Twenty-three days and eleven thousand two hundred and forty miles later, if you’d sat here with me on the back deck this afternoon--you’d know, too--autumn now envelopes Sweden in a patchwork of yellow, red and gold below and scudding cumulus above. A persistent wind off the Baltic, sometimes warm but increasingly chill as the days unfold, rushes up and over the granite ridge beyond with its warning: if the coming winter isn’t just around the corner, it’s around the next corner after that.
At eight o’clock on Thursday night, Arne Holmqvist returns from Vissvass, where he’s been hunting the last of the shy chanterelles--Cantharellus cibarius--a reclusive but prized fungus that hides amongst the snag and pine. Monday morning, the photo caption on the front page of the local paper reads, "The she-wolf, born last year and collared as a weanling, is moving South from Norway, and has been sighted in Vissvass." The Middle Russian forest wolf, Canis lupus lupus, often travels solo and will walk up to twelve miles a day, and often around the clock, a wildlife official from Tyresta National Forest says, opining to the reporter that "she may be looking for a place to winter over." It is noted, too, that no wolf has travelled into the Kommun for more than a decade.
A magpie, perhaps the last, arrives, all bluster in black and...