I’ve been talking with some writing friends about the trend in literary magazines towards, well, trendiness. The editors usually say they are seeking “edgy,” but the effect is more often, well, “trashy.”

A quick aside to express my annoyance about the random use of the word ”well” to mean “for lack of a better word.” (See above.) This over-used affectation was oh-so-clever the first quadrillion times I read it, but it hasn’t been trendy in years, and it doesn’t belong in literary magazines. You can all stop now.

Edgy, Man

Sorry — back to trendy journals. Neither my writing friends nor said journals will be named here. I mean, what if one of us wants to get published in a trashy trendy journal?

Actually, my writing aspirations do not include afore(not)mentioned literary magazines, because we are probably “not a good fit.”

I don’t use the word “motherf**ker” nearly enough.

Ever, actually. I don’t use a-hole in my prose, either. And that, my friends, is what passes for trendy in some corners of the literary world.

I mean, how can you be edgy if you don’t trash-talk like a middle-schooler?

Raw and Daring Language

There’s a best selling author – one of Oprah’s hallowed few – who has coined a phrase, which “has gone viral in the writing community,” according to Creative Nonfiction magazine.

The phrase is, “Write like a motherf**ker.”

Huh? Please tell me that “the writing community” is not inspired by this.

Good Lord, people.

Creative Nonfiction is apparently very inspired. The editor, Lee Gutkind, has dedicated much of his latest From the Editor column to the scintillating phenomenon. Gutkind says that it is “the style, the forbidden ‘MF’ word” that has turned this catchy phrase “into a kind of mantra.” He also advises that “before you can write like a motherf**ker, you have to research like a motherf**ker.

“It is gutsy,” Gutkind writes, “raw and daring.”

No, it is not, Mr. Gutkind.

It is dated and juvenile and stupid.

No offense meant to author Cheryl Strayed who started the hub-bub; I haven’t read her work. She was doubtless as surprised as anyone when her casual words of raunchy wisdom started appearing on mugs and t-shirts. There’s an interview with her in the Creative Nonfiction, which I’ll get around to reading. Guess what it’s called?

Yup – How to Write Like a Mother#&@%*&.



It’s all very exciting for those assembled.

Elissa Bassist interviews Ms. Strayed. Both are editors at The Rumpus, which is where the unique and compelling verbiage originally appeared. Bassist says the phrase has “become an anthem and a lifestyle.”

An anthem?

A lifestyle?


Ms. Bassist then goes on about “motherf**kitude” and “motherf**kery” for a while before getting down to the interview.

I’m not kidding.

I mean no disrespect for the magazine or the editor, both of which are a well-recognized blessing to creative nonfiction and to the literary world as a whole. I am certainly not lumping CNF in with the trashy trend; that’s why I’m wondering what’s up with this fixation?

And While I’m Being Annoyed

The rest of Mr. Gutkind’s From the Editor column addresses the message splashed across the magazine’s cover:

Who Says Women Don’t Write Serious Nonfiction?

Who, indeed? Is it necessary to perpetuate an antiquated charge like that in 2013?

This headline leads to a suspicion that certain people at Creative Nonfiction spake thus, or they would not need to argue otherwise. “The  headline doth protest too much, methinks.”

The magazine consistently receives more submissions from women than from men, so I suppose we should be encouraged that they decided to print a collection of women’s writing, even if they did introduce it with questionable condescending kudos on the cover.

Questionable Kudos

Questionable Kudos

Or maybe I’m way off base. Perhaps Lee Gutkind’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he crafted that cover, as I hope it was when he expressed the hope that his winter issue demonstrates that “it’s not true that women write only memoir or that they don’t write about ‘serious’ topics.” I am going to assume that he has read serious memoir by women on suicide, mental illness, child slavery, prostitution, homelessness, widowhood, the loss of a child — you know, frivolous girlie stuff.

Whatever the big boys think, I’m going to keep at it, writing like a … like me.