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 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

AWP2015: University of Minnesota Press Looks Both to Past and Future

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 5.17.02 PMA university press: Home for all things obscure, scholarly, and regional.

Right? Not quite, as was clear at the University of Minnesota Press 90th anniversary panel held Friday morning at AWP.

Three UMN Press authors—Karen Babine, Kate Hopper, and Sarah Stonich—read from their widely appealing works and entered into conversation with Erik Anderson, regional trade editor for the Press. Continue reading

Come Write With Us At AWP! Call for Guest Bloggers–Thursday

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 6.35.57 PMGoing to the AWP Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis? Concordia College–Assay’s home and sponsor–is the premier sponsor of AWP this year, and it’s Assay’s first AWP, so we’re really excited to count down the days! We’re looking for guest bloggers to write up reports of nonfiction and pedagogy panels, readings, interviews, and more, because we haven’t figured out how to clone ourselves and be in three places at once! (I’m sure I’m not the only one having a hard time deciding which panels to go to!) We’re also looking for bookfair reports and other write-ups of the goings-on. So many things to do and see! 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!

Best American Essays, University Writing Programs, and their Literary Journals: A Work in Progress

Red FlowerCuriosity is the best part of an essayist’s job. This fall, I got curious about the relationship between Best American Essays, the journals represented, and the writing programs that house those journals. Thanks to Assay’s editorial assistant, Nick Nelson, we have more data than I expected–and it’s thought-provoking enough that we want to share it. We are presenting that information without commentary or opinion, but just as straight data. Make of it what you will. We didn’t intend this data for public consumption, only for our internal information, but we believe it’s interesting enough and important enough to share with the wider world, even at this stage. There are some errors here and there, but again, we did not intend this for an audience beyond our own staff. We also don’t pretend this is comprehensive or complete.

Nick’s process unfolded this way: he took the last five years of Best American Essays (excepting 2012, which I didn’t have on hand for him) and he collated all the journals represented in the Notables and the frequency of representation. Nick then took that information and investigated the university writing programs attached to the journals in the top 30 spots. In the interests of transparency, we are including here the raw Top 30 (which includes commercial journals not attached to writing programs, like The New Yorker), but we are also including the Top 30 with those commercial journals removed. We anticipate adding more years and more information in the future.

I am incredibly grateful to Nick for doing this work–thank you!


BAE University Data Best American Essays and What It Shares

BAE Journal Data

BAE University Data

 Assay Home Page

Submit to the Blog!

I have this theory, that when the calendar flips past Daylight Savings Time and we start to feel less productive, it’s a result of the light and the illusion that the day is shorter. We still get up at the same time, but the sun doesn’t rise until we’re on our commute and at 4:30, it’s dark and we feel like the day is over, despite the clock saying the same thing it did in August. We feel like we didn’t get enough done in the day, simply because it feels like the day is over so much sooner. Our students are feeling this too–I’m sure I’m not the only one noticing a certain strain on their faces. We’re in that place where we need a new spark to our writing and teaching as we prep for the last run to finals and are trying to simultaneously prep for spring semester.

That’s how we envision this blog, as an extension of Assay’s mission, between the issues. We want to publish the work that supports what we’re doing in the main issues and what our readers are doing. We’re committed to expanding our syllabi bank, to compiling a list of global nonfiction writers, and extending our discussions into the blog itself. Click on the Follow link on the left to keep updated on what’s happening here. If you don’t already like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, those are two more good resources. Continue reading

The Pissing Dog and the Hydrant: A Meditation On Nonfiction & Editing

B.J.HollarsB.J. Hollars is the author of two books of nonfiction–Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America (the 2012 recipient of the Society of Midland Author’s Award) and Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa (the 2014 recipient of the Blei/Derleth Nonfiction Award)—as well as a collection of stories, Sightings.  He has also edited three books: You Must Be This Tall To Ride: Contemporary Writers Take You Inside The Story (2009), Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings (2011) and Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction (2013).  His hybrid text, Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction will be published in the fall of 2014. An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he lives a simple existence with his wife, their children, and their dog.

It could have been any of you in here. And probably, it should have been many of you. But the difficulty of editing a nonfiction anthology such as my own, Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, is that the work is too great and there is too much of it. Of course, in many respects this is a wonderful problem and speaks to the strength of our genre. Not only do we have a surplus of stories, but we have a surplus of stories worth telling. You don’t need to take my word for it. Pick up any issue of Creative Nonfiction or Fourth Genre or Brevity, or any of a hundred others, and the proof will be in the pages.

We are a genre thriving, and though the people on this panel represent various anthologies, even with all our collected work combined, there are still plenty of omissions. We can champion great work, sure, but we can never champion all of it. Continue reading