Creative Nonfiction Essay Ideas On Counter


By Brenda Miller

I’m sorry about that time I ran over a piece of wood in the road. A  pound of marijuana in the trunk and a faulty brake light—any minute the cops might have pulled us over, so you were edgy already, and then I ran over that piece of stray lumber without even slowing down. Thunk, thunk, and then the wood spun behind us on the road. Your dark face dimmed even darker, and you didn’t yell at first, only turned to look out the window, and I made the second mistake: What’s wrong? That’s when you exploded. You’re so careless, you don’t even think, what if there had been a nail in that damn thing, you yelled, your face so twisted now, and ugly.  And I’m always the one that has to fix it whenever something breaks

I’m sorry, I said, and I said it again, and we continued on our way through the desert, in the dark of night, with the contraband you had put in our trunk, with the brake light you hadn’t fixed blinking on and off, me driving because you were too drunk, or too tired, or too depressed, and we traveled for miles into our future, where eventually I would apologize for the eggs being overcooked, and for the price of light bulbs, and for the way the sun blared through our trailer windows and made everything too bright, and I would apologize when I had the music on and when I had it off, I’d say sorry for being in the bathroom, and sorry for crying, and sorry for laughing, I would apologize, finally, for simply being alive, and even now I’m sorry I didn’t swerve, I didn’t get out of the way.

Brenda Milleris the author of the essay collections Blessing of the Animals (reviewed in this issue) and Season of the Body (2002) which was a finalist for the PEN American Center Book Award in Creative Nonfiction.  She has received five Pushcart Prizes, and her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, The Sun, Utne Reader, The Georgia Review and Witness. She co-authored, with Suzanne Paola, the textbook Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfictionand she serves as editor-in-chief of the Bellingham Review.

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Below you will find the past issues from our first twelve or so years of publication. Brevity has an updated design and has moved to a new server, so the latest issues can be found at

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Issue 28 /Fall 2008 falls to earth like an acorn from a truth-telling oak tree.  Nonfiction from the incomparable likes of Terese Svoboda, J.T. Bushnell, John Calderazzo, K.L. Cook, Brian Doyle, Kate Flaherty, John Griswold, Pat Madden, Leslie F. Miller, Brian Oliu, Rita Rubin, Phil Terman, and Kathrine Leone Wright. Plus new Book Reviews from Debbie Hagan, Joey Franklin, and Liz Stephens and stellar Craft Essays from Barrie Jean Borich and Sherry Simpson.

Issue 27 /Summer 2008 is ripe with prose offerings from Tim Elhajj, Kate Petersen, Kelle Groom, Donovan Hohn, Judith Kitchen, Debra Marquart, Rebecca McClanahan, Lynne Nugent, Michelle Otero, Jennifer Sinor, Jill Kandel, and Richard Terrill, and featuring the photographs of author/cake raconteur Leslie F. Miller.

Issue 26 /Winter 2008 looks at shaved ice, hot oatmeal, a fountain in winter, sledding, the high desert, solitary journeys, playing it cool, and the exquisite sluggishness of the sloth. Authors include Anne Panning, Philip Gerard, Jil Christman, Ashley Seitz Kramer, Bill Milligan, Marcia Aldrich, Mary Sojourner, Patricia Twomey Ryan, Aaron Teel, and A. Papatya Bucak.

Issue 25 /Fall 2007 debuts ten outstanding essays, two new Craft Essays, three Review Essays, a brief Book Excerpt, and a crossword puzzle.

Issue Twenty-Four / Summer 2007 with Abby Frucht , Rebecca McClanahan, Ira Sukrungruang, Barbara Hurd, Bonnie J. Rough, Jennifer Sinor, Carrie Oeding, Suzanne LaFetra, Charles Cantalupo, and Chris Orlet.

Issue Twenty-Three / Winter 2007  features ten outstanding essays exploring childbirth, urban sprawl, catachresis, candy cigarettes, and beyond.

Issue Twenty-Two/ Fall 2006 features Lisa Kahn Schnell, Jillian Schedneck, Michele Valois, Sheyene Foster Heller, Fleda Brown, Rita Ciresi, Brian Arundel, Rachael Pridgeon, Patrick Rosal, and Rebecca Housel briefly exploring circles, confession, heat, sausage, cancer, hot baths, teaching errors, tangos, things that are lost, and the electrodynamics of loving older men. Please take a dip in our nonfiction waters. Succinct, but never shallow. And we promise there are no sharks.

Issue Twenty-One/ Summer 2006 includes a pair of fine new craft essays looking hard (and briefly) at short shorts, prose poems, and all manner of miniature prose. Plus, an even dozen new essaykins from writers old and new, emerging and established, featuring Mexican canines, fried chicken, Dorothy of Oz, preachers, boyfriends, and men on bicycles who are not to be trusted.

Issue Twenty / Spring 2006: Issue 20 includes essays by Sheryl St. Germain and Jimmy Chen responding to the Katrina tragedy, a pair of illuminating new craft essays, return visits from Jeff Gundy and Shane Borrowman, and crisp new writing about driver ants, Stop & Shop, snorkeling in the coral, good parties, and hometown boredom. James Frey may need to tell A Million Little Lies to get his point across, but here at Brevity we feel that the truth is powerful enough.

Issue Nineteen / Fall 2005: J. Stephen Rhodes, Greg Bottoms, Joshua Dolezal, Rebecca McClanahan, Linda Dyer, Porter Shreve, Cheryl Merrill, Stuart Lishan, Nicole Walker, and Ira Sukrungruang make a tasty creative nonfiction omelette containing filets of fish, Jerry's head, Yma Sumac, bulldogs, Scrabble, confident women, Miss Raney's stockings, hot baths in April, the unique resolve of an expert Thai bowler, and that moment where the curse of the conscious world begins.

Issue Eighteen / Summer 2005: Shane Borrowman, Alexis Wiggins, Richard Terrill, Sheila Killian, Katy Read, Matthew Frank, Kristin Sherman, and Emily Franklin, scope out Somalia, a mother's touch, painted turtles, Irish dancers, street scavengers, moist figs, brush strokes, and the infinite marvels of the Google search engine.

Issue Seventeen / Spring 2005: Sue William Silverman, Sonja Livingston, Marcia Aldrich, Lynn Kilpatrick, Renee D'Aoust, Robin Hemley, Lee Martin and Bob Cowser Jr. focus the creative nonfiction microscope on thumb-sucking, The Village People, freedom of personal hygiene, Prince Valiant, flaming abundance, thankless jobs, the many definitions of dumbness, and "the ugly friend."

Issue Sixteen/ Fall 2004: Cheryl Merrill, Katherine Ozment, Margaret MacInnis, Jessica Mesman, Tom Whalen, W. Brian Overcast, Jessica Handler and Mark Yakich apply their sharp eyes and lively pencils to the worlds of childhood secrets, grief, new life, nature's luminosity, and the question of which is sexier: the pear, the banana, or the Chinese Gooseberry.

Issue Fifteen/ Spring 2004: In our fifteenth issue: Sheyene Foster Heller, Nancy Linnon, Steve Fellner, Rebecca McClanahan, Alison Fensterstock, Sonja S. Mongar, David Bernardy and Leah Williams explore the world of sliding, stripping, spinning and leaping, life in a bowling alley, divorcees, long dirt roads, and the Cracker Barrel.

Issue Fourteen/Fall 2003: Greg Bottoms, Brenda Miller, InSuk Jo, Deborah Marquart, Suzanne Rivecca, Peggy Duffy, Diana Kiesners, and Ellen Morris Prewitt, focus briefly on Japanese Gardens, German weddings, Canadian vacations, Korean-American pronunciation, Venetian divorces, Atlantic City buffet lines, Neil Young in broken English, and all those odd music teachers from our past. Plus our NONQUICTION winners. Absolutely vivid writing. All in 750 words or less.

Issue Thirteen/ Spring 2003: Bret Lott, Laurie Drummond, Phil Gerard, Beth Kephart, Thomas O'Connell, Jane Armstrong, Ginny Wray, and Tom Bradley focus briefly on the world of paranoid nurses, serial killers, leonids, depraved peacocks, illicit armbands, great grandmothers in wigwams, bridge bums, and the simple genesis of faith.

Issue Twelve/ Fall 2002: Greg Bottoms goes to the Gun Show, Brian Doyle remembers Ed, Lee Martin considers the paper wasp, Jose Chavez encounters Jimmy half-drunk and on the porch, Cantara Christopher remembers Eugene O'Neill, David Bosnick makes a fist, Rebecca McClanahan loves bald men, and Elizabeth Shanley Driscoll faces her day of reckoning.

Issue Eleven/ Spring 2002:  Brenda Miller splits wood, Lori Jakiela takes to the air, Christopher Chambers avoids the Hernandez brothers,  Pete Carey discusses writing and music, C.M. Mayo hikes in the Vizcaíno Desert, Anne M. Bauer takes her son Edward absolutely nowhere, and Jeanne Parr Lemkau doesn't see a lot in Cuba.

Issue Ten / Fall 2001: Brian Doyle considering children and grace, Kelly Cherry visiting an unflinching world, Bob Cowser Jr. exploring the power of song, Sheyene Foster Heller writing without metaphor, Gail Siegel posing nude, Susan Landry watching men from her window, and Rajesh Sharma meeting a dancing boy on a train.

Issue Nine /Spring 2001: Janelle M. Masters contemplates color theory, Todd H. Dills watches TV with Mel, Patricia Ann McNair swallows cold coffee, Marilyn Knight negotiates domesticity, Jami Attenberg refuses to listen, Michael Kiser names the birds, and Frank Bures is one tough bastard.

Issue Eight /Fall 2000 (The Nature Issue):  Maureen Stanton waits for moths, Carolyn Kremers thinks of the Nez Perce, Allen Braden studies an elephant that paints, Ann Clizer's friend Rane swims with a bull, Paul Lindholdt visits the high country, Christina Adam reminds us that there is wildlife in Los Angeles, and Robert Root visits places he has been before.

Issue Seven/ Spring 2000: Alyce Miller considers desire and Aretha Franklin; Demian Hess learns early the power of language; Kathryn Hughes remembers Ellie at the ironing board; Gail Peck seeks her inheritance; Trish Harris works the phones; Gary Scott considers the fate of insects; Susan Kushner Resnick sees men in hats; and Marcia Aldrich discovers growth in her marriage.

Issue Six/ Fall 1999: Michael Perry visits the boat people, Kate Flaherty learns about sex in a boardinghouse, Allegra Wong gets very personal, Judith Beck cooks up some cow brain, Angus Woodward battles centipedes and fever, Laura Moe loses her baby fat, Mimi Schwartz learns the power of a cap, and Ann Neuser Lederer asks, "What About the Babies?"

Issue Five /Summer 1999: Liz Rosenberg writes on fever dreams, child beating, and fine dining; Michelle Richmond talks of curvature and parental love; Patti See returns to suburbia, while Mary Sojourner attempts to escape; Cristian Popescu trembles with the pavement stones; and Creative NonQuiction winners David Shields, Cathy Gileadi, and Mary Hussman reveal the secrets of wooden horses, maturing bodies, and the ritual of a burning stick.

Issue Four /January 1999: with Brian Doyle, Anjana Basu, Tom Stanton, Ann L. Berrios, Jane Armstrong, Margaret Ahnert, and Julie Mullany, on love and numbers, green buckets, passing storms, and the secrets held in fish and weekends.

Issue Three/ Fall 1998: With Janelle M. Masters, John Verlenden, Cynthia Burgess, Jessy Randall, Mary Sojourner, Rob Hardy, Lin Mu, and Kevin Sampsell, on talking after love, embarrassment, soup and adverbs, Elvis in Sudan, gambling, sterility, 'nothing,' and not being there at all.

Issue Two/ Summer 1998: With Art Homer, Anjana Basu, Jeff Gundy, Jane Armstrong, Suzanne Young, Joseph Coroniti, George Yatchisin and Dinty W. Moore

Issue One/ Fall 1997: With Paul Kellermann, AB Emrys, Charles Cantalupo, Sue Beller, and Janet Alexander.

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