We invite you to experience Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, a journal devoted to publishing notable, innovative work in nonfiction. Given the genre’s flexibility and expansiveness, we welcome a variety of works ranging from personal essays and memoirs to literary journalism and personal criticism. The editors invite works that are lyrical, self-interrogative, meditative, and reflective, as well as expository, analytical, exploratory, or whimsical. In short, we encourage submissions across the full spectrum of the genre. The journal encourages a writer-to-reader conversation, one that explores the markers and boundaries of literary/creative nonfiction.
Fourth Genre is thrilled to announce the results of the 2014 Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize! See information on the winner and finalists on the Prize page.
At Fourth Genre, we—that is, I and a staff of six or seven interns—read every submission, every manuscript.When we meet every Friday,we pull out the ones that anyone wants to discuss. Even if only one person is interested in it, we talk about it. Most of the pieces don’t make it past this point, but each of them receives a personal e-mail summarizing the discussion. I believe that if we’ve taken the time to read carefully, make notes, and talk about it, then the writer deserves to hear what informed my decision. When the discussion lets me know that there’s something compelling about the piece, when the discussion has led us to think about it differently, I send it to three or four reviewers. And from those reviewers’ responses, I look for consensus, I look for insight, I look for what could make the piece even more compelling.
Sometimes I find I don’t agree with the reviewers, all of them very different kinds of readers and writers. There are times I get responses that are distinctly opposite to one another, and then I’ll send it to another set of readers. I share those reviewers’ responses with the writer and often use them to start a conversation. But working with writers is like this: I’m never entirely sure whether I’ve made the right choice about how to engage in that conversation. Will this writer take offense if I suggest it’s at the level of sentence structure that the current version isn’t working? Am I doing violence to the writer’s intentions if I suggest that one entire thread needs to be deleted in order to focus on what’s truly powerful in the piece?
Sometimes I know I’ve made a good choice, because the writer agrees or disagrees, but revises, and the revision has made an enormous leap, the writer has pared off the excess, redirected the focus, or used my sentences to find new ones. Sometimes the writer sends back a revision too quickly, and it’s clear I’ve missed the mark entirely. And of course, sometimes the writer disappears and I don’t have a clue what effect my half of the conversation has had.
No matter, it’s nevertheless a privilege to be able to engage many of the writers who submit work to Fourth Genre in conversation about the pieces we eventually choose to publish. It’s time intensive, yes. And yes, the staff worries a lot when writing the rejection letters about saying the right thing, about not crushing the spirits of the writers to whom they write, imagining their own selves on the receiving end, imagining all the possibilities for saying the wrong thing. But often enough we find that making this whole process of writing and reading more transparent is generative and useful—that bringing out from behind the curtain the workings of the editorial process is worth it, because (as one reviewer put it just the other day) the writing we get keeps getting better and better.
—From the Editor’s Note to Fourth Genre 17.1, by editor Laura Julier
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