CFP: Assay 3.1 and Beyond!


At Assay, we’ve dubbed Year 3 “Year of Best American Essays.” Our intrepid assistant editor Nick Nelson, who’s been with us since the beginning, has been working to make the reprints and Notables of Best American Essays into a searchable form, and his project will be released in the next several months. He started the project in the fall of 2014, before Assay published its first issue, and the scope has grown considerably as he has pursued it. The project is truly exciting, a wonderful and useful piece of work for our genre, and we are thrilled to share it with the world. Stay tuned for the release date.

2016 is the 30th anniversary of the Best American Essays series and we can’t think of a better gift than attention paid to this institution that forms so much of who we are as a genre. Essay Daily started things off so well with their Advent project in December–and if you haven’t checked it out, you’ll want to. Best American Essays, as a literary series and foundational element of our genre, is such a rich source of conversation. As we also celebrate BAE’s anniversary and Nick’s project, we will devote a section of the magazine in both 3.1 (Fall 2016) and 3.2 (Spring 2017) to interrogating BAE as the standard bearer of the genre, the pedagogy of teaching with it, analysis of individual pieces, and any other place creativity strikes.

imageWe’re looking for full scholarly articles, we’re looking for informal discussions, we’re looking for pedagogical theory, lesson plans, assignments, and more. The introductions to BAE have long been considered the beginnings of nonfiction theory–where does that put us as a genre? If you’re not sure what you’re working on is something we’d be interested in, please ask us!

We continue to read and accept general submissions, so even if your current work isn’t on BAE, we’d love to see it. Deadline for full consideration for the fall issue is May 1, 2016; deadline for the Spring 2017 issue is December 1, 2016.  Click here for the link to the full guidelines.

Assay’s “In the Classroom” Series is Back!

cropped-cropped-img_6123.jpg“In the Classroom” is Assay’s ongoing series about writing & teaching creative nonfiction. Our intention is to provide posts that nurture you as writers, readers, and teachers — and to continue building the creative nonfiction community. This ongoing series supports Assay’s journal, which we publish in the fall and spring.

From last year, we’re pleased to bring back Assay’s weekly posts on “Favorite Essays to Teach” and “Writers to Read.” This academic year, we’ll alternate weeks with this series. Our first “Favorite Essay to Teach” was provided by Jessica Handler, eloquently writing about teaching Joan Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook.” If you missed that post, you can read it here.

We welcome submissions to this series. We’re pleased to continue supporting the work of students, and your students may be particularly interested in submitting to “Writers to Read.” Here is a link to “In the Classroom” submission guidelines.

This year we’ll also include posts from Lauren Wilson, who serves as Assay’s Editorial Assistant. Lauren will be contributing pieces about being a writer-in-progress abroad. We’ll also be featuring guest bloggers from conferences: we’ve put a call out for guest bloggers from NonfictioNow. If you’ll be in Flagstaff for the NFN conference, please consider contributing to make NFN available to those unable to attend (or to be at two panels at once!). Next spring, we’ll put a call out for guest bloggers from AWP#2016/Los Angeles. In the past, Brevity blog has done fantastic work highlighting conference panels, and we’re happy to continue this tradition, making conference panels, talks, and happenings accessible to all.

Over the winter academic break, look for a new feature on craft. Our first one will focus on a panel presented at AWP#2015/Minneapolis, which was led by Jo Scott-Coe.

Welcome. And thank you for being part of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

Assay Annual Report: Year 1

It’s hard to believe that Assay’s first year of publication is in the bag, with two spectacular issues forging new paths in nonfiction conversation. We returned from AWP and the panels we heard confirms our mission as a magazine: we’re having these conversations, truly excellent discussions of what our genre is doing, and those conversations need a permanent home. We’re glad to be a part of that work. Here are some of the successes we’re most proud of from this year: Continue reading


Our spring issue is almost ready to post and we’re excited to unveil it to you on March 1! As we’re putting together its final touches, we’d like to share a few opportunities we have coming up and invite you to submit:

  1. Submit to the blog! We’re doing a big push to include more student writers on our blog, particularly in our Wednesday Writers to Read series. Much of what we’re looking for is the same kind of analytical reading response we often assign to our students–and here’s an opportunity for their work to find an audience beyond the classroom. We’re looking for excellent undergrad work as well as other levels.
  2. On Teaching: as we get the spring issue into the world, we’re also going to be resuming our between-the-issues activities, particularly In the Classroom.
    1. Syllabi for the syllabi bank.
    2. Submissions for “My Favorite Essay to Teach” on the blog.
    3. Reading lists/topic indexes of nonfiction texts. We’ve been noticing excellent conversations and calls to the internet brain trusts on specific topics–and those discussions need to be archived.
    4. Global nonfictionists list.
  3. We’d also like you to spread the word–and be on the lookout–for where your students might be writing work that we’d like to see, especially as the end of semesters come and go.
  4. Be on the lookout for us at AWP!

We like crossovers and follow-ups, so we encourage repeat entries for the blog in particular, as well as participation in the In the Classroom initiatives. We’re looking forward to the new conversations!

Interview with Taylor Brorby

Taylor Brorby is the newest addition to the Assay staff, as a contributing editor to our blog. By happy coincidence, he visited Concordia this week, where our editorial assistant Nick Nelson sat down with him.

Nick Nelson: You described earlier that there will always be an importance of writing to an individual. What makes writing important to you?

Taylor Brorby: I think for me, writing is important because it allows me to see outside myself. When I’m reading, and in particularly reading as a writer, I’m thinking of how is this person is telling their story. What sort of ways are they structuring it? What might be new? What might be exciting, and highlighted to me as a reader? But for me, it’s also recognizing that in the importance of writing there’s also the importance of language and how words not only sound, but what they do on the page. That’s where humor comes in, when you look up the roots of the words to find where they come from, it allows you to do a great pun if you wanted. But I think it’s important because it allows me to see another story that is outside myself, but usually when you’re reading you find that story that seems so far away from you actually is holding a mirror up to you and then you see maybe your own biases, maybe your own desires, maybe your own hopes. So that is why I think writing for me is really important, especially encountering just other writers whose experience is far different from mine. Continue reading

New Face at Assay!

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 12.26.05 PMHey, Assay!

My name is Nick Nelson and I’m excited to be a part of the team. Currently, while also assisting the blog and editing process on Assay, I’m also working hard to finish my BA in English Writing at Concordia College (I’m a junior) in hopes to pursuing my MFA in Minneapolis. I also am working toward a minor in German specifically to gain insight about the world around us and where we stand within our own culture. One of my German professors, Madelyn Burchill, would advertise the language programs saying you must know another language to truly understand your own and I took it heart. Learning the English language from a foreign perspective, I learned how intricate and elaborate it can be.

I’m so glad to be a part of Assay and start working and editing in the nonfiction field because I love wrapping the real world into words. It gives me the chance to engage in topics I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about in my everyday life. That’s is another reason I cannot wait to work, read, and edit pieces about the natural world.

-Nick Nelson