How I Got That “Mahatma”: Dinty W. Moore discusses short nonfiction with NOT ME.

Dinty Moore: some call him Mahatma.

River Teeth Journal just posted an interview with Dinty Moore. In founding and editing Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction, Moore has played a large part in defining what we think of as short (or flash) nonfiction.

I interviewed Moore circa. 2006, during his tour to promote The Accidental Buddhist. This is not that interview.

I wish I had been blogging in 2006. About Childhood has a running feature called How I Got That Story, where I interview authors about the path to their first book. (Search on How I Got That Story.) Had I been blogging in 2006: a) I’d probably have a book out by now; and b) I would post that interview.

Since I wasn’t, why … Ladies and gentleman, I introduce to you … someone else’s conversation with Dinty Moore!

Why did you choose 750 words as the maximum for Brevity submissions?

I felt a 500-word maximum was too short and 2,000 words too long.

The adage “show don’t tell” is something many readers expect from memoir, yet in more than a few Brevity essays – such as “Sam at the Gun Show” by Greg Bottoms – telling is prominent.

The writer who is sensitive to word choice and rhythm and the power of the intimate detail can do a lot of telling. There’s a difference, too, between telling and explaining. I advise my students to show the most, tell a little bit, and never explain.

What’s imperative for a short piece that’s different in a longer piece?

Everything is dialed up in a shorter piece. The first paragraph of a brief essay has to do what the first chapter of a memoir does.

What assumptions do others seem to have about flash nonfiction?

Many assume a flash piece is an excerpt from a longer work. Sometimes a significant moment out of a chapter or a long essay can stand alone, but we’re getting more and more pieces that clearly could never work in the longer form because the energy of the piece hinges on the rapid fire sharing of information, and the urgency of having to fit it into a {750 word.–Ed.} frame is what makes it powerful.

What are some other journals you recommend for short nonfiction?

Sweet, Blip, Alimentum, Fringe Magazine, Defunct, South Loop Review, Flashquake, 400 Words, Underwired Magazine, 751 Magazine, Diagram, and The Sun’s “Readers Write” section.

The above is a highly edited version of the original article.

Winner: Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize

Dinty W. Moore, is author of Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues.


Author: allehall

I am a writer. I write to explore childhood: literary essays and short fiction, journalism, and three haiku. My published work expresses my belief that everything which did or did not happen to me as a child is manifesting in everything that is or is not happening to me today. More importantly, it is also manifesting for my children. I believe funny is the new navel-gazing, and that the best funny keeps a penny's worth of serious in an accessible pocket. Little-known fact: I have a completed novel decorating the inside of a desk drawer. Perhaps it is not funny enough.

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