Posted by Janet Li
Below is the confirmation letter of my online submission to The Louisville Review, a literary magazine from my hometown in KY.
There was a space for me to comment on my online submission in the form, and thus, I sent The Louisville Review the following letter:
To The Louisville Review,
My name is Janet Li and I am currently a junior at Duke University. I spent my elementary through high school years growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.
I took a creative nonfiction course this past semester. Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies is a product of my work in that course. The piece focuses on my travels to Shanghai and a southwestern village in China and how it has shaped my view of nature and technology, and city and country. When I traveled to both places, I had constantly compared the city and village in China to my past experiences in Louisville and thus I felt it was appropriate to send this piece to the Louisville Review.
Piece that was submitted: Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies
Dear Encompass Editors,
I would like to submit the attached essay for potential publication in an upcoming issue of Encompass. The essay, entitled “Blackout”, addresses an ethically-important social issue that has recently been rearing its ugly head around campus. As a student of neuroscience and pharmacology, I have attempted to explore the issues of excessive drinking with a more scientific and objective perspective that I feel makes the piece accessible to almost everybody. I would love to see this published in Encompass if you think it would be a good fit. Let me know if you would like to work with me to edit it (for length or otherwise). I look forward to hearing from you.
PS: I’ve attached both a formatted PDF version and a plain text copy of the piece.
Hi Bull City Rising!
My name is Margrette Kuhrt and I am a junior minoring English at Duke University. I’m just finishing a course in creative nonfiction where I had to write several personal pieces. One of these pieces was about my relationship with some locals who often come to play basketball on campus next to my apartment. Through their presence I was able to learn a lot myself and come to terms with some issues in my life. I am forever grateful for that. I think this piece, because of its connection between a Duke student and the people of the greater Durham community, would be a good fit for your blog.
My piece was titled The Pink House on the Sidewalk or How I Learned to Dream Again. I will attach it in Microsoft Word format. If there’s anything I need to do to make it more accessible to your readers or to the format of your blog, please let me know! I look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks so much for your consideration,
You can reach me at:
Cell phone: 757-818-1100
Mailing address: PO Box 98594 Durham, NC 27708
Here is my cover letter!
To The Creative Nonfiction Foundation:
My name is Brea Davenport and I am a Junior studying English at Duke University. This semester I had the pleasure of taking a course in writing creative nonfiction. In this class I wrote a piece called Blinded By The Light From The Land Of The Rising Sun. It is a humorous story about my personal relationship with Japanese culture that I think would be a good piece for your journal.
I noticed that your publication takes pieces that are written by authors who have a story to tell. These stores range from general observations to personal stories from the past. All of them are informative, interesting, insightful, and told with a very distinct voice. I feel that my piece would fit well with the type of story that you are looking for. It is a thoughtful reflection on how this culture that was not mine by birth became such a large part of my life and how it has evolved over time.
I would really appreciate you reading my piece. I am completely open to talking with you about my piece for further revisions or anything you deem necessary. I have attached this piece to this email through pdf file. I am available via the following:
Mail: 2262 Highway 82
Statham, Ga 30666
Thank you for your consideration.
posted by Carol Shih
(I’m sending my work to TheMorningNews.org. It’s an online magazine that publishes personal essays on art and life and all that good stuff.)
I composed this piece after reading the NY Times’ Wedding section for the past couple years. It’s an opinion piece that explores my fascination and disgust with their coverage of rich, elite weddings. I don’t have any previous credentials… but you could help me make some
Author: carol shih
Phone: 972 922 3182
Address: Box 93483, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
Posted by Tim Xue
To the Editors of “On the Move” Newsletter:
My name is Tim Xue and I’m a sophomore studying biomedical engineering and English at Duke University. I live in Fountain Valley, CA and I’ve also been a member at Los Cab since 1999. This past semester, I wrote a piece in my Creative Nonfiction class that I hope you will consider for publication in the next issue of “On the Move.”
The piece, titled The Wall: A Handbook on the Basic Elements of Tennis, is a first person narrative about my experiences with tennis through the years, centered around the lessons I’ve learned by practicing against a wall (I know it may sound odd, but give it a chance). I’m aware that the newsletter’s primary purpose to inform club members of events and get them further involved, but I’ve occasionally seen longer articles profiling a recent outstanding accomplishment by a member, a new tennis coach or fitness trainer, or a longtime member and his or her unique experiences at the club. My work falls into the latter category as a longer article, and there are several reasons why I believe it is a great fit for the newsletter.
Two of the main focuses of my work, Wojtek and the wall, are rooted at Los Cab—Wojtek has taught hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults tennis throughout the years, and I know for a fact that there are other people besides me who practice at the wall. My piece also contains elements that appeal to non-tennis members as well—the themes of disciplined learning, agony over injury, and recovery as a journey that pervade my work are things many athletes have experienced and I think would enjoy reading about.
I’ve attached my piece in both Microsoft Word and PDF format. Its current design, layout, and title are catered towards the class for which the project was written; I can certainly see it being condensed into a more traditional publication format, and of course, I am also open to any further modification suggestions you may have should we decide to pursue and continue this process. Please enjoy reading my work, and thank you in advance for your consideration.
You can reach me at the following addresses:
Cell: (714) 914-9925
Posted by Zeewan Lee
Dear Editors of Cabinet,
Hi. My name is Zeewan Lee, and I am a senior at Duke University double majoring in English and political science. This semester I have taken an English course titled Creative Nonfiction Writing. In the class, I have written a piece — titled The Grotesque is Beautiful – on the concept of grotesque as handled in Alexander McQueen’s world of fashion.
I saw Cabinet defining itself as a hybrid of a popular arts/design magazine and a scholarly journal: playful and serious, exuberant and committed. Since the piece I am submitting is not only a summary of some of the most praised and noted collections of McQueen but also an in-depth exploration about the idea of the grotesque, I believe my piece can also be called an intersection of popular (fashion) culture and a scholarly exploration of an idea that is a good fit for your magazine. It would be wonderful to have you read my piece, so please do take a look. I will be open to do further revisions, so let me know if such a process seems necessary. You can reach me at the following addresses:
PO Box 94723
Durham, NC 27708
Thank you so much for reading this far-
P.S. Attached is my essay in Microsoft Word format, as well as a pdf version of it that anchors pictures better. I hope the pdf version helps you see which picture my text is referring to in each of its sections. Since the theme for the Summer 2011 issue is not determined yet, I would like to have my submission go under the “unthemed” section.
Posted By: Rachel Revelle
Project 1 Filling-a-Bookshelf
Eddie, Ryann, and Team Kenan:
I would like to submit the attached piece, Filling a Bookshelf, to Encompass in hopes of it being published in your Spring 2011 issue. I am in a creative nonfiction writing class with Professor Joe Harris, and he has encouraged us to seek publication for our work. Encompass Magazine is familiar to me as an Ethics Certificate student, as well as a writer for the Spring 2010 issue. My essay relates a way in which people represent themselves, a visible sign of a personal ethic, if you will, through the way in which they fill a bookshelf. It also makes a case for the value of the written word, which is certainly a big topic in today’s technological society. It is very much a personal narrative, but also, I think, an affirmation of a concept that is applicable to all. I would love to publish another piece in Encompass as a culmination for this class and my time with the Kenan Institute. I will look forward to hearing from you, and am certainly willing to discuss any revisions or suggestions you may have.
Project 2 The Christmas Party
My name is Rachel Revelle and I am a senior at Duke University from Murfreesboro—my parents are Chuck and Bonnie Revelle if that helps place me. As an English major I have taken a creative nonfiction writing class this semester in which we have produced at least two pieces we feel are ready for publication. My second piece, The Christmas Party, emerged from an interview with Mrs. Nancy Copeland of Murfreesboro about her Christmas Eve party. My intent was to give tribute to a town institution and a holiday tradition, as well as the poignant figure behind it all. I would be thrilled, therefore, to have the piece read by a local audience, and wondered if it might run as a special feature in the News-Herald this holiday season. Mrs. Copeland has given me permission to do so. I realize it is lengthy for the paper, so if cuts or revisions are necessary I am certainly willing to work with you on those. I will look forward to hearing what you think, and Happy Holidays!
News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant’s response:
Christmas traditions provide us all with so many warm memories; ones, such as this, that live within our hearts and souls forever. I, like you, could write a book on the ones I fondly recall from my past. Your piece on Mrs. Copeland was well written. I was consumed by it…to the point where I felt I was in her home on Christmas Eve. If possible, please re-submit the article in Micro Soft Word. Additionally, do you have any photos to compliment the article? I would like to use the article, and any photos, in our Christmas edition, which will publish on Dec. 24.
Thanks so much for your encouraging feedback. I will look forward to the Dec. 24 publishing! Attached is the piece in Microsoft Word. I do not have pictures with me here at school, but could probably get a few from my family or Mrs. Copeland when I get home next Thursday, Dec. 16. I will send a few then.
Posted by Joe Harris
Thanks, everyone, for posting your favorites. I look forward to discussing them tonight; they’re both astute and affectionate, and as a group offer a compelling picture of a community of writers at work.
I wanted to add my some of my own favorites to the list. For the most part, I’ve picked passages from recent work, but in a few cases I couldn’t resist noting an earlier piece. I’ve divided my comments into four categories:
- Setting the scene (Dayo, Janet, and Lawson)
- Drawing characters (Carol, Rachel, Eriks, Andrew, and Tim)
- Making connections (Xan, Margrette, Zeewan, Grace)
- Parataxis (Lauren, Erica, Brea)
Thanks once again, everyone, for your work this semester!
PS I also cheated and quoted passages much longer than 50 words.
While much of our talk this semester has focused on how to make prose more intense, paratactic, vivid, to evoke characters and experience, I was also struck by the careful work that often went before such moments, by how writers set the scene for what was to follow.
For instance, near the start of “Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies,” Janet Li does a remarkable job of describing, in plain and precise language, the appeal of a remote Chinese village she visited:
Everything seems so quiet in this village. No running water, no Internet, no cars, no interstate highway system. Yet, this village has put a spell on me. The sun is finally up and my cousins have woken up and prepared breakfast. A few hours later, we all travel to the village market. There are people carrying baskets on their backs, baskets that will become full with all the vegetables and meat they plan to purchase at this market.
Small shops of food, movie rentals, music rentals, and ethnic minority clothes line the sides of the street. We are the Bai ethnic minority. The villagers speak their language, a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and are using it to communicate now. We like the color white. It is rare these days to find a young woman in the traditional dress, a light colored top garment worn underneath a sleeveless short red jacket and an embroidered apron over blue or white pants. My favorite part of the wear is the exquisitely-embroidered white head ornament that is tied by a single pigtail. I am a little disappointed by the decreasing number of young people wearing the dress, however, the married women walk around the market in traditional dark blue right-side buttoning front vest over a shift and blue loose fitting trousers, an embroidered dark-colored apron, and a black cloth to pack their rolled hair.
Janet contrasts this rural scene with the more cosmopolitan allure of Shanghai in order to discuss, not China, but her responses to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “On Nature” and her own sense of feeling drawn to both city and country. One reason why her piece is so effective is her ability to describe the “country” in ways that are exact, unsentimental, but enormously appealing.
Lawson Kurtz sets a very different sort of scene in “Blackout,” a a critical yet measured essay about the alcohol-fueled culture of Duke and many other universities. Such a piece could easily become preachy, but Lawson works against this with acute, almost clinical, and yet dryly witty description of “the general undergraduate drinking climate,” which he says can be
be summarized using only three words: Get drunk fast (quickly is a word rarely used by the inebriated). The cost- and time efficiency of the techniques utilized by students to get drunk would make an economist smile. Shotgunning, shooting, funneling, keg stands, quarters, beer pong, flip cup, lager bombs, icing, case races… the list goes on. If money is a problem, students find it cheap. If fullness is a problem, they find it potent. If motivation is a problem, they make it competitive. Instead of alcohol functioning as a social lubricant to enhance the social experience of the party, alcohol becomes the party, and attendees become consumed by the culture of consumption. Take a look around West campus on any given Friday night, and your eyes will be graced by a multitude of rowdy students drinking as fast or faster than their bodies allow. It is therefore unsurprising to learn that 40% of these students have reported blacking out within the previous year. While this could possibly be dismissed as an undesirable side effect of otherwise enjoyable alcoholic recreation, it has become increasingly apparent that most don’t actually care about blacking out. For some, a blackout may actually be an intended effect.
In a rather different way, Dayo Oshilaja pauses in the middle of her interview with the articulate and forceful Professor Sandy Darity, of Duke’s School of Public Policy, to examine the effects of their conversation on her and to set up what is to come next (a critique of the idea of “Post-Racial”America and an argument for reparations):
A knock on the door interrupts the flow of our conversation. While Professor Darity is talking with a colleague, I take a deep breath and try and re-group. Throughout our interview my pen has remained frozen in place as I tried to assimilate all the new information. I had never thought of Obama in these terms before. I am un-ashamed to say that back in 2008, I was very much caught up in Obama-mania. I was one of those idealistic college students positive that Obama was going to change the country for the better. I attended his rallies, excitedly hung up his poster on my wall, and proudly wore his stickers to class. I loved to brag to anyone who would listen that I had the opportunity to actually shake his hand when he came to Durham in 2007. But now, Professor Darity was forcing me to look at Obama in a more realistic light. Fortunately for me, I did not have long to reflect; the colleague was gone and the clock was ticking.
This paragraph subtly urges Dayo’s readers to “re-group” and rethink their views along with her. Quietly, the interview starts to become as much an exploration of her thinking as Darity’s.