Our BAE Call for Submissions Explained: Submit!

We’re home from #AWP16! It was great to meet so many of Assay’s current and future writers. If you can believe it, Editor Karen Babine and Managing Editor Renée E. D’Aoust met for the first time in person at #AWP16. Here’s a picture of them following their panel (with Michael Steinberg, Philip Lopate, and Mimi Schwarz) “Old Neighborhoods, New Locales: How Place Shapes Our Writing and Our Literary Identities.” (One highlight of the panel was what Karen called “converting people to the cult of Paul Gruchow,” and the rumor is that the Milkweed booth sold out of Gruchow after our panel.) Many thanks to all who attended.


In addition to being on a panel, Contributing Editor Taylor Brorby hosted signings and an off-site reading to celebrate the publication of the anthology, which he edited, “Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America” (Ice Cube Press).


We continue to read submissions for next year and spoke in person with many of you at #AWP16 about what we’re doing with our BAE focus. Here’s the lowdown:

We’re concentrating on Best American Essays in our Fall and Spring issues and looking specifically for work that addresses it. For two years (nearly since the beginning of the magazine), our intrepid editorial assistant Nick has been working on a BAE data mining project to make the entirety of the Notables and reprints into a searchable database. He’s graduating in May and we should be able to release the project not too long after he recovers from graduation. The project opens up even more space to discuss Best American Essays.

There are a lot of conversations about BAE we need to put into print, because we as nonfiction writers place a lot of value on BAE and we often simply accept its place in our genre. We talk about in in the fall around water coolers and via social media when the issues appear, but extended discussions need to be considered and put into print.

How do we teach with it–and why? What’s the pedagogy of BAE? This could take the form of scholarship or it could be in the form of an extended lesson plan or assignment. Most of us have favorite essays that have been reprinted—analysis, love songs, etc. of those are most welcome. We want to see work on individual essays; analysis of trends across issues; consideration of the introductions, which are often seen as proto-criticism in a genre that doesn’t have much.

Is the value of BAE in the snapshot of a year that it offers? Is the value in the reprints? In the Notables? Karen keeps thinking back to Stephen Jay Gould’s introduction to the 2002 issue and his observation that he could have filled the entire issue with 9/11 essays, but chose not to. It’s great that online journals are now counted among the journals eligible for BAE—and that’s a necessary shift it’s been interesting to witness in the issues. Does BAE truly represent the best of what’s published in the year?

How do we think about the issue editors, especially as they demonstrate that there’s a divide between nonfiction inside and outside the academy (obviously none of the editors/founders of the main nonfiction journals have ever edited an issue). Nonfiction already represents a divide between disciplines (between composition and rhetoric, literature, and creative writing), as well as between popular magazines (like The New Yorker) and literary magazines. There’s a lot to talk about and our goal is to represent as much of this as possible.

Deadline for full consideration for the Fall issue is 5/1! Click here for the submission guidelines.


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