Friday, December 25, 2015

What is Creative Nonfiction?

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

What is creative nonfiction? In some ways it's like jazz: fact-based writing that has the quality of ragtime or classic or bebop or swing, played as the blues, or even with a cross-rhythm, and always with a moving inner voice.

Creative doesn't mean inventing. It means incorporating the styles and elements of good fiction, poetry, memoir, and essay. Creative nonfiction is writing-of-the-real, using devices such as sense of place, voice, and character development; as experimental as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact. 

Before he became the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Editor, Rick Sapp's Vanover's Luck was featured in Bacopa Literary Review 2014. The first sentence reads like fiction, the urge to dive in is so strong:
Even as he lies crumpled and bleeding at the base of a tree, his mouth full of Remington 2x4 shot pellets, John Vanover thinks of himself as a lucky man.
There's also compelling intrigue in John's knowing the exact make and size of the pellets. Has he shot himself? Or does he just know guns? 

We learn that Vanover was born in the Virginia hills and knows Appalachia's knolls and coves, its caves and creeks as well as he knew the path to the outhouse on a moonless night when he was young. 

Note the rhythm and literary style of the following paragraph:
Ask John about working the mines, the deep tunnels with air, he says, that smells like cold steel, mines so dark that a dream about life outside makes miners clench their eyes tight, mines that snake under unsuspecting farms, under deer and turkeys, under nesting field mice and the scowl of hawks and owls like burrowing worms and he says, his voice trailing off in tone and volume as if he is ashamed, "I loved it."
The author could have told Vanover's story in a more documentary form, and no doubt that would also have been well-written. 

But for Bacopa submissions, we're looking for creative nonfiction like Vanover's Luck: an aesthetic experience, the orchestration of a true story.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bacopa Literary Review 2016

Over the next few months we'll give samples of what we're looking for by highlighting work we respect, some from Bacopa Literary Review and some from other sources

Here's Julia Wagner's poem "Coming to Center," first prize poetry winner in the 2014 Bacopa:
Not seeking novelty, but permission,
music provided the first movement.

I would come to understand the world
through those lessons.

The Arabesque, the Frappe, the Jete
rhetoric of creative motion: my freedom.

The young body, as it trained, became impetuous:

But, something derailed just then
a danger in silences.

I did not hear well Madame's clapping rhythm  

but better, those holy metrical stops,
the curious pianist reading close her score.

My Glissade stretched far too long,
Madame's curious brow,

sure to meet just inside the note's rest.
Music taught this, not dance:

to be autonomous, despite the routines.
And to stop when it wanted.

Julia's book Aegis is available at, a collection that experiments with the connections between language and memory. The word Aegis assumes safe passage, a place holder for both word and memory.