Sunday, December 4, 2016

12/4: Marcia Aldrich et al, “Let’s do an Anthology”: Writers Shaping the Literary Creative Nonfiction Landscape

When I began editing Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, I gained a new appreciation for writers who were simultaneously editors. As the chief editor of Fourth Genre I depended on writers willing to review books, interview, and read manuscripts for which they would not be paid. Most literary journals depend upon the good will of writers to donate their time and expertise. Working with the writer-editors at Fourth Genre changed the way I looked at the literary world. I began to see the world of creative nonfiction as a community whose growth and vitality was built by a network of writers who were also editors.

In the last several years I’ve been fortunate to have essays included in anthologies edited by writers: After Montaigne, University of Georgia Press, edited by David Lazar and Patrick Madden, Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, University of Nebraska Press, edited by B.J. Hollars, Creating Nonfiction, SUNY Press, edited by Erin Murphy and Jen Hirt. These three anthologies are just a small sample of the anthology offerings that have come into being in response to the growing interest in creative nonfiction, with special emphasis on the essay. I’ve joined their ranks. On December 15, Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women will be released by the University of Georgia Press. Writers turned activists are increasingly shaping the creative nonfiction landscape through editing collections. The editors of these anthologies are busy, productive writers. And yet, instead of just keeping their heads down, so to speak, and focusing on their own writing, they have chosen to undertake editing an anthology. Why would an experienced writer choose to edit a collection of essays? This is the question I’ve asked and here are their answers.

We are all busy writers and educators, and yet we have each undertaken editing a collection of essays. What motivated you?

David Lazar: I have edited three anthologies and two collections of interviews, and in each case the motivation was slightly different, but there were some commonalities. Among these were: I had to proceed with the convenient fiction that the anthology wouldn’t be too arduous a project, wouldn’t take too much energy away from my own creative work. Without this fiction, which I’ve somehow managed to repeat—the power of denial! —I’m not sure I could have done the editing work. I also need to be bothered. Bothered by wanting something to be out there that isn’t and feeling that I need to address this tiny crack in my imaginative vision of the literary universe. Another self-delusion, though one that I hope will provide some level of entertainment or food for thought for a few people. But mostly, I have an idea that interests me and I like to have more than one project going at a time, and so I think, a la Micky and Judy, “let’s do an anthology!”

B.J. Hollars: I suppose what motivated me is what always motivates me: a deep, insatiable curiosity, and a desperation to find an avenue to try to sate it. When I began my proposal for Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, I was hardly an expert on the subject. I was relatively new to nonfiction, and particularly naïve to unique structures within the genre. But I was hell-bent on learning everything I could, and the more I read, the more I wished there was a single anthology that might offer me a range of boundary-blurring essays, as well as some insight from the writers themselves. I searched the shelves and found nothing. And so, summoning my inner “fake-it-till-you-make-it” mentality, I wrote the proposal, tried to sound a lot more confident than I was, and then began the process of creating the book I knew I wanted.

Jen Hirt: There are two major elements that motivated me to undertake the co-editing of Creating Nonfiction: Twenty Essays and Interviews with the Writers. The big motivators were collegiality and my interest in interviews. Let’s start with the interviews: I have a little bit of a journalism background through which I’ve had a chance to practice the art of questioning. How do you ask the right question to elicit the most insightful response? I love that challenge. I’ve learned a lot about writing through Q&A sessions, so the chance to craft so many questions and then edit the answers into an anthology seemed like the right project to be doing as a professor, writer, and program coordinator within my department. The collegiality motivator has to do with the fact that Erin Murphy approached me with the idea for the book. She’s at Penn State Altoona (I’m at Penn State Harrisburg), and I knew she brought a lot of experience to the table, since she edited the first book in the series, Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets. I see collegiality as not just small talk at the copy machine, but also mentorship. I knew Erin would be a great mentor (she was and is and will be!), and I’d always wondered how to edit anthologies. Signing on as a co-editor was like taking a continuing education independent study with a seasoned editor. Who would turn that down?

Patrick Madden: I feel a great debt to Montaigne, and I love to read and teach his essays, but I feared that his work was not being taught widely enough in college creative writing classes. Also, I’d learned a great deal in David Lazar’s classes by imitating great essays from the past, and I’d often given my students the assignment to “cover” one of Montaigne’s essays. From there, it was a short step to wanting an anthology that would form a bridge between our time and Montaigne’s, and would inspire writers to seek out Montaigne’s masterful work. Plus, I was excited about what essays some of my favorite writers might write if given the assignment of covering Montaigne. I was not disappointed.

Marcia Aldrich: I undertook the making of Waveform because I wanted to play a role in the conversation about the essay in my time beyond being a practitioner. I was emboldened by my experience editing Fourth Genre where one of the most satisfying parts of the job was curating issues. During my editorship, I created two new features—the first asked the writer of one of the accepted essays, notable for its innovation in form, to write an accompanying essay discussing the process of composition. The second feature was called Writer as Reader drawing on a dual sense of the personal: the use of creative form in telling a story about the writer’s relationship with an essay. I was creating a historical document of how we were writing nonfiction during this period, with a special emphasis on formal innovation. My longstanding interest in formal innovation and its importance to literary history is what motivated me to undertake Waveform, a collection of essays by women that points to and celebrates the formal accomplishments of women essayists.

How do you understand the expansion of creative nonfiction? Or to put it a little differently, what interests you in the expansion of creative nonfiction?

David Lazar: Oh, that term still hurts my ears a bit. I’ve talked about this elsewhere so I’ll give my most economical answer: There was a gradual movement in the culture towards material in all media that was experiential, less mediated by the traditional aesthetic filters of poetry and fiction and drama, and at least to American readers, the essay and memoir had been lurking somewhat unnoticed as forms that dovetailed with what the rest of the culture was interested in. Even though these forms had their own aesthetic histories and complications. Nonfiction also has represented a growth area for academic creative writing programs saturated with the traditional genres. What interests me? To be honest, I’m not sure I am all that interested in such things. Or very modestly, at best. My interest in forms tends to be chaotic and archaic.

B.J. Hollars: The day I lost faith in writing was the day I learned that a movie had been produced entitled The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars. To be fair, I have no quarrel with its predecessor (The Brave Little Toaster—a classic…sort of…), though after a finger-splitting day at the computer keys, there was nothing more soul-crushing than to learn that writers were now profiting wildly by sending kitchen appliances into space. How can I compete with that? I wondered. Clearly, it’s all been done. It was around that time that I began to think about how we might write our stories and essays differently. How we might expand the limits of form, push beyond the conventional boundaries, and find new ways to hit the human heart. In the world of nonfiction (or at least memoir), our greatest tool to ensure originality is our voice. After all, our voice is our own—no one else has it—and our personal experiences are our own, too. But I continue to think that experimenting with form is another incredibly powerful tool. If it’s all been done (i.e. if we’ve resorted to toasters expressing their bravery via interstellar travel) then perhaps it’s up to our voice and our form to tell our stories differently. I suppose this is the long way of saying that what interests me most in the expansion of creative nonfiction is our interest in innovation, our willingness to take a step back from our stories and ask, “How can I tell it differently? In a way it’s never been told before?” These days, the answers to these questions are becoming harder and harder, but there are still plenty of answers to choose from.

Jen Hirt: This question lines up perfectly with my other anthology, Kept Secret: The Half-Truth in Nonfiction, forthcoming in June 2017 from Michigan State University Press. In this fascinating project with co-editor Tina Mitchell (founder of The Turnip Truck(s) and instructor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette), we’ve included only essays that contain a secret, a lie, or a half-truth. Most are reprints, so to make it new, we also interviewed each contributor about the challenges of writing within this gray area of creative nonfiction. How do you reveal a secret that isn’t yours? How do you reveal a secret that might anger family and friends? How do you justify the troublesome half-truths in a genre built on truth? And what is the difference between a secret and a lie, and how do different writers handle it? This is where CNF is expanding – a clever or controversial theme coupled with craft talk. I’m not the first to spot that horizon. The Far Edges of Nonfiction and Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction did essential work in this area too. In my Advanced Nonfiction class this semester, we’ve done nothing but experiment how we can expand creative nonfiction and justifying our decisions to take these new trails (that’s the tricky part – justifying a risk). The undergraduates in that class have had smart insights that almost come to them naturally. They live in a post-fact culture; their interactions are simulated and surveilled, and they know it (and hate it and love it). Creative nonfiction is expanding to hold their cynicism and their passion for change in a postmodern (and post human?) culture.

Patrick Madden: If by expansion we mean that more people are writing creative nonfiction and publishing it and reading it, then I’m self-interestedly excited about the possibilities for writers (me), of course. Specifically, I believe I’ve seen a general change in attitude toward the term essay. When I was in graduate school, just fifteen years back, I heard again and again that I would have to hide my essays, give them other labels, especially once I had a book’s worth of them, because “nobody wants to publish essays.” Some publishers did publish essays, of course, but not many. When I lucked out and landed an essay collection with Nebraska, I asked that the word “Essays” be displayed prominently on the front cover. I was told, “No, we can’t do that.” But maybe they had a change of heart, or maybe editorial didn’t communicate with design, because when the cover mockup came, it had the word “Essays” prominently displayed. I was overjoyed, and I never reminded the press about what they’d said. And now I see the word “Essays” frequently, right on book covers, even bestselling and award-winning books. I believe this is not simply an “observer expectancy effect” or “frequency illusion,” but that readers are hip to what essays are and can be. They’re no longer thinking of “essays” in terms of the punishments their high school language arts teachers assigned them.

Marcia Aldrich: What interests me most in the expansion of creative nonfiction is its diversity. “A genre, whether literary or not, is nothing other than a codification of discursive properties.” So said Tzetan Todorov. There is no such thing as the one size fits all essay: it is not a fixed genre. It is as varied as its practitioners. As someone with a scholarly background in modern poetry and a writer who thrives in experimentation, I am most interested in innovations upon form.

What gaps or need did you perceive in the field that you wanted to address?

David Lazar: For the Montaigne anthology, Pat Madden and I wanted to connect Montaigne to familiar contemporary writers to a generation of readers who, perhaps, didn’t much read him. In my Truth in Nonfiction anthology, I wanted to have a bunch of writers speak from all different angles about a subject that never quite seems to die off, no matter how much we sometimes tire of talking about it. For the Essaying the Essay anthology, I wanted to connect what seemed inevitable to me: that the essay continually talks about itself.

B.J. Hollars: Mostly, I was hoping to curate a “one-stop shop” for readers to explore essays that utilized innovative forms and structure. Moreover, I wanted a book with behind-the-scenes mini-essays that provided insights from the writers themselves. Finally, I wanted writing exercises, too—something that might compel the reader to try a few experiments herself. I wanted the book’s organization to emulate the pedagogy I enjoy: one that provides examples, conversations related to the examples, and the chance for the reader to give it a try. I hadn’t found a book that fulfilled these varied roles, and I suppose that was the gap I was trying to fill.

Jen Hirt: As far as needs go, I would love to see more celebration of essays that start with the idea that imagination is creative nonfiction, that if you imagine something, you can argue that that imaginary scenario is not fiction, but nonfiction. Of course, the writing must be phrased properly, but that should not be a hindrance. For example, “I imagine that the apple is speaking to me, and this is what it would say if it could speak….” I know writers who will draw the line right there and say, “Nope, that’s fiction. It didn’t happen, it’s fiction.” But imagination happens. It’s a real thing, a powerful place your mind goes. Write it as real, and read it as real.

The gap question is a little harder to answer, because creative nonfiction as a genre seems like it was made to fill the gaps. However, I do have this observation. This semester, I’ve noticed that my female students of color in a beginning creative writing course dove right in to their creative nonfiction assignments with an eye and ear for amped-up imagination, experimentation, and wordplay. And no topics were off limits. They created some of the strongest workshop submissions (and workshop discussions) all semester. Other than the few essays I assigned in class, they had never read any creative nonfiction at all, and did not know it was a genre. That means they came to the class with a solid skillset for telling stories in vibrant, evocative language. Where did that skillset come from? To answer that, I started thinking of my white male students this semester, who almost uniformly turned in what I think of as the “safe and quiet” essay, in neat paragraphs, with a tidy conclusion and nothing startling in content or language. During workshop, one black female student said to the author of such as essay, “I wish you had offended me more.” We all laughed, and I tried to re-contextualize her comment a little bit while still respecting it – I said something like, “Are you encouraging this writer to use words and phrases creatively so you are surprised and you react?” Yes, she said, yes yes yes. She wanted to feel and to admire, not just read. How do you learn that? How do you try to teach it in a 3-4-week unit? I’m not sure, so I guess I would like to see more craft essays on that aspect. Writers who just knew how to write lovely crazy nonfiction, not from reading it but from living it – how did you make it work on the page?

Patrick Madden: As I mentioned, I thought that MFA students weren’t reading enough Montaigne. I based my assumption on a relatively small sampling of fellow students, some of whom didn’t even know who Montaigne was, yet were studying creative nonfiction. And even I wasn’t reading enough Montaigne as a student, until I began my PhD program at Ohio University and studied with David Lazar. Once I did read him, though the effect was gradual, I fell in love and decided that if you want to write essays, you must first love Montaigne. I hope this anthology becomes a bridge for people to find Montaigne again. If students (especially) see cool contemporary authors engaging with the master, then maybe they, too, will want to read and get those first exemplary essays. Secondarily, I have perceived a reluctance to intentionally borrow from or imitate past masters. Some writers believe a naïve myth about ex nihilo originality, and I want us all to embrace our influences, as the writers in After Montaigne have done.

Marcia Aldrich: The publishing world has been catching up to the interest in all forms of creative nonfiction. There are a growing number of anthologies that highlight the diverse range of the essay. It’s as if the place of the essay has been secured and now we can focus on more specialized points of entry, hybridization, our debt to Montaigne, writing process and so on. What has been missing is an anthology focusing on the contemporary essay written by women. Despite the growing accomplishments in the field by women, I didn’t think they received the kind of recognition they deserved. Hence, the birth of Waveform. But I wanted to buck the trend of anthologies of women writers organized around theme. I wanted an anthology that emphasized the innovations in writing I was seeing in the field, that didn’t monolithically tilt towards the more traditional branch, and I wanted to deliver on the promise of diversity for today’s classroom. These were the needs I felt Waveform should address.

Can you talk about your experience editing a collection? For example, what were the pros and cons of recruiting new material versus reprints? If you had a co-editor, could you discuss that or alternatively working alone.

David Lazar: Well, with new material you must work with these sticky living writers, which can be appallingly time consuming. On the other hand, I’m terribly fond of some of them, and it’s lovely to get rare new work. That’s the joy of editing, isn’t it? Reprints can rejuvenate lost work, which is quite satisfying, and other than permissions, are easy to do. As for solo vs. co-, I’ve enjoyed co-editing with Pat Madden more than solo, I think. Despite his unruly temperament and tendency to sing all submitted work out loud to the tune of “Maria,” Pat has been the most congenial co-editor I could imagine. He and I have a rhythm with working, who does what when, that I think is sympathetic and intuitive, and we agree a lot, if not inevitably, which makes life easier. When we don’t, it’s not earth shattering.

B.J. Hollars: A friend with a bit more experience in the anthology editing department once jokingly warned me that working with writers is a “bit like herding cats.” That may be true, even if we’re the coolest cats around. But in truth, the writers I worked with were all a dream. Very little herding was needed. From the start, most every writer I approached seemed gung ho to take part in the experiment.

As for new material versus reprints, for me, I think it’s important to get a bit of both. I’ve found that publishers’ marketing department loves to use the line, “including original work by [insert awesome author’s name here].” Indeed, that can be a great selling point. Who doesn’t want to read original work by a beloved writer? But the reprint, too, is essential. There are some essays that are simply too canonical to ignore. The problem, of course, is that oftentimes the reprint rights are beyond one’s budget. More than a few dream essays were lost because of budgetary constraints.

I didn’t have a co-editor for this one, though I imagine that partnership might have come in handy. It’s hard to rely solely on one’s aesthetic. I don’t think for an instant that B.J. Hollars’s personal aesthetic is sufficient when it comes to which essays “should” be read in the classroom or beyond. Rather than simply selecting my “favorite” essays, I tried to provide a wide-range of work, all of which covered different subjects and tackled new experiments. Throughout the selection process, I always imagined I was making a mix tape for friends: chances are, your friends won’t love every song you choose, but hopefully a couple will stay with them.

Jen Hirt: You would think that new material would be ideal – no copyright hurdles, and readers will be drawn to the book to see a new piece by a favorite writer. But in the case of both anthologies, my co-editors and I ran into the perennial (and endemic) problem of time. Possible contributors who didn’t have a new piece to offer bowed out due to lack of time to revise and polish. It’s understandable; we are all pulled in ten different directions and then some. I was once asked to contribute a brand-new piece on a theme (to the award-winning anthology From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines), and it did in fact take more time than I realized. (Glad I did it, however!) But another problem we ran in to was writers reluctant to “give” the piece to an anthology first – they wanted it to appear in their own books first, then get anthologized later. One contributor in this category dropped out because of an impasse with the publisher; others stayed in, but there had to be an additional level of reassurance regarding copyright and ownership. If you think about it, it’s a bizarre level of negotiating for books that make so little money. I’m from the generation that embraced “copyleft,” the idea that getting the word out is more important than owning the word, so I tend to not worry about copyright issues with my own work (when I have the option of not worrying, that is). To be honest though, I’ve noticed that writers from older generations are much more savvy about copyright, which is both good and bad for anthologies.

Reprints for Creating Nonfiction were easy, because from the beginning, Erin and I made it clear that we would accept only pieces to which the author had the copyright. Since there was no theme, writers would submit just about any good piece. Reprints for Kept Secret were difficult, because Tina and I were after specific essays on a theme; often, they were essays or chapters long in print by major publishers. We encountered pricey permissions fees and unrealistic format requests (for example, one permissions agreement allowed for reprint in print, but not in the e-book version). We had to make the tough decision to drop those contributors. We also encountered months-long Byzantine permissions processes where our requests got passed from one mid-level assistant to another to another. A few times, we had to beg the authors to beg their agents to make a direct call to whoever had the final say on permissions as we came down to hours before a deadline. It was stressful. I’m grateful for my co-editors in both these projects – the ability to “tag-team” a difficult situation was essential, as was the second set of eyes and cooperative problem-solving. I think doing an anthology alone would sort of break my soul and crush all my hopes for humanity.

Patrick Madden: Essentially all the essays in After Montaigne are new, written on assignment specifically for the anthology. The only exceptions are a pair of pieces that the writers had written recently and which suited our purposes ideally. In our case, we were very lucky that all our contributors were enthusiastic about the project and happy to be a part of it. Everybody was on time and amenable to the few edits we suggested. Also, we had no hassles with permissions for copyright.

As for co-editing, I suppose that others’ experiences would be different from ours, but since David and I have a long and abiding friendship, we had a lovely time working together. The work was divided very evenly, though not by assigning certain tasks discreetly to one or the other of us. Instead, we each did all the categories of work, about fifty percent of the time. When we had to make decisions, we discussed them diplomatically, with nary a shred of dispute or contention. From start to finish, the anthology was a shared labor of love.

Marcia Aldrich: The idea for Waveform grew out of conversations with Jill Talbot. Everywhere we looked articles were popping up celebrating the “Golden Age for Women Essayists” and we believed the time was right to put forward an anthology featuring contemporary women essayists. We wanted to invite new, never-before-published essays in the main. Unfortunately, because of time demands Jill had to drop out of the project and I went forward on my own. Now I better understand why so many anthologies are co-edited. There’s a lot of work that goes into bringing an anthology to publication and it helps to have someone to share the load, whose strengths and resources might be different but complimentary. It is useful to talk matters out with someone else while coming to decisions. I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t published such a book realizes the kind of housekeeping that goes on behind the scenes—the endless emails, getting permissions, the signing of contracts, proofing of pages, publicity. It can be daunting to undertake by yourself. In the end Waveform includes new material and reprints, half and half, which struck me as a good balance for many of the reasons my fellow-editors mention.

What have you learned about publishing and marketing collections? Did your original conception undergo any changes in the process of seeing it into print?

David Lazar: I think I’ve learned to be, in the most gentlemanly way possible, stubborn. Or shall we say, insistent. At a certain point, I know what I want to do when I commit to a project, since I only commit to a very few, and I’ve thought about it for a long time before I do. And then I want to see it through. Editing and writing are sister arts, and one wants to, in editing, as in writing, stay with the vision you had of what you wanted to do. That isn’t to say one should be immune to a proper course correction if it comes along, or suggestions. Editing is the essence of a collaborative avocation. In the Montaigne book, we added epilogues and epigraphs as necessary components to each essay after we got started, and our style sheet for how the book was going to look evolved. That kind of thing.

Jen Hirt: For Creating Nonfiction, Erin and I originally planned to have the contributors interview each other. But as we strategized how to do the initial sample for SUNY (before getting the contingent contract), we realized that the coordination needed for that idea would be extreme. So, we decided to do most of the interviews ourselves. Another marketing issue was the title. There are other books with the “Creating Nonfiction” title (or a title close to that), and we had to think carefully about the pros and cons of that.

For Kept Secret, Tina and I are attempting to establish a pre-publishing base of secret-minded fans and scholars through a Facebook page. We’re posting news, articles, and insights about secrets; some posts have more of a creative bent, while others are just fascinating or relevant to the day. For example, when Dylan won the Noble Prize in literature, we posted the video for “Like a Rolling Stone” and the lyric “You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.” As the book nears publication, we’re going to post teasers for the essays and interviews. After publication, we’re hoping that readers will post other essays about secrets, lies, and half-truths so that the site becomes a repository and teaching resource.

Patrick Madden: Initially we had an agent who tried to publish the anthology with a big New York publishing house. Though we got many kindly worded rejections (noting the editor’s personal enthusiasm for the project), none of the publishers we tried thought they could sell the book. So perhaps, despite my optimism about the bright future of creative nonfiction and essay collections specifically, mainstream publishing is still not ready for the kind of work we Essay Daily readers love. But that’s why university and independent presses are so vital. The University of Georgia Press seemed to love our concept from the beginning, and they’ve given great support to the book while leaving the editorial vision to us. Their next step is to bring out After Montaigne in paperback, in time for AWP 2017, and market it for course adoption, which is where we hope the book will remain a staple for a long time.

Marcia Aldrich: Like Patrick and David, I initially queried some agents and editors who worked in commercial publishing. When I began the project, I thought it might be commercially viable because of the roster of writers and the recent attention to the rise of women essayists. It struck me as a timely project. The responses I received, while phrased slightly differently, all were concerned about marketability. The lack of a thematic hook made the book not “readily marketable.” It didn’t have a “take” on being a woman other than being essays by women essayists. Treating the women writers as writers and focusing on the diversity of narrative approaches was viewed as a hindrance to selling rather than a strength. The vision I had for Waveform as a book that treated women writers primarily as writers working with artistry in the essay form was what motivated me. To compromise that vision wasn’t an option. Editing the book was always a labor of love with intangible rewards. I am grateful for The University of Georgia Press. They have understood, supported, and been genuinely excited about my approach. So, the answer is that Waveform reflects my original conception.

Marcia Aldrich is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton. She has been the editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. Companion to an Untold Story won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is the editor of Waveform: Twenty-First-CenturyEssays by Women, published by University of Georgia Press.

Jen Hirt is the author of the memoir Under Glass: The Girl with a Thousand Christmas Trees. She has co-edited two anthologies, Creating Nonfiction: Twenty Essays and Interviews with the Writers (with Erin Murphy) and Kept Secret: The Half-Truth in Nonfiction (with Tina Mitchell, forthcoming 2017). She was a contributor to the award-winning anthology From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines. Her essays have won a Pushcart Prize and have received three "Notable Essay" mentions in Best American Essays. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Penn State Harrisburg, where she is also the English program coordinator.

B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, most recently From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A Test. Next February, Flock Together: A Love Affair With Extinct Birds will be published by the University of Nebraska Press.

David Lazar was a Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction for 2015-16. His books include Who’s Afraid of Helen of Troy, After Montaigne, Occasional Desire: Essays, The Body of Brooklyn, Truth in Nonfiction, Essaying the Essay, Powder Town, Michael Powell: Interviews, and Conversations with M.F.K. Fisher. Forthcoming from Nebraska are I'll Be Your Mirror: Essays and Aphorisms and Characters. Seven of his essays have been “Notable Essays of the Year” according to Best American Essays. He created the PhD program in nonfiction writing at Ohio University and directed the creation of the undergraduate and M.F.A. programs in Nonfiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago, where he is Professor of Creative Writing. He is the founding editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika, and series co-editor, with Patrick Madden, of 21st Century Essays, at Ohio State University Press.

Patrick Madden is the author of two essay collections, Sublime Physick and Quotidiana, and co-editor of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays. He curates and, with David Lazar, edits the 21st Century Essays series at the Ohio State University Press. A Fulbright and Howard Foundation fellow, he teaches at Brigham Young University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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