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NER Emerging Writer Award Winner—Dr. Ricardo Nuila Takes the TEDx Stage

Categories: Nonfiction

Ricardo NuilaWe’ve learned that The New England Review/Bread Loaf Scholarship recipient for 2015, emerging writer Dr. Ricardo Nuila, has spent a little time on the TEDx stage, telling his stories out loud.

“My first thought was, wait, someone else must be a doctor . . . how might I explain myself to the flight attendant? ‘Excuse me kind m’am,’ I’d say, ‘I literally became a doctor yesterday. What this means is, I don’t know what I’m doing . . . if you want to know the truth, I’m done with medicine. I’m off to become a writer.’”

Listen to Ricardo Nuila tell his TEDx story here, from the stage at Rice University

Dr. Ricardo Nuila is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where he works as a hospitalist at Ben Taub General Hospital and teaches internal medicine and classes on the intersection of medicine and the humanities to both residents and medical students. His essays have been published in numerous prestigious medical journals including The New England Journal of Medicine. Additionally, Dr. Nuila is an accomplished fiction writer who has been published in New England Review, McSweeney’s, Ninth Letter, and Indiana Review, among others.

Winner of the inaugural NER Award for Emerging Writers, Dr. Nuila will attend the 2015 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference this summer on the first annual NER/Bread Loaf scholarship.

NER Classics | Home Planet | Marianne Boruch

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

California_Desert_Landscape_41Marianne Boruch’s testimony “Home Planet” appeared in NER 31.1:

I kept thinking about that collage, which was, in fact, a rather popular thing to put together then. A very hip friend of mine in the dorm, a girl who insisted on wearing sandals all winter, minus socks even, had done the same thing, searching through various publications—Life magazine always a good bet—for pictures that would make years of people and experience leap out of the wall with an electric, exuberant force. But it was doubly remarkable, there in the Sunderlands’ bathroom. Because it was very cool, making one of those, a wall flooded with various cultural heroes, people off the grid inventing whole new grids. I was sure something odd and quirky remained in those Sunderlands after all, something of the rebel. Here was evidence. Maybe Ned was at the heart of that. At least, on the wall he was.

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NER Classics | Experiences of the Void | David Guy

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

David Guy’s essay, “Experiences of the Void,” was published in NER 16.2:

When I look back on mBeyond Mechanics - Marendo Müllery beginnings as a writer, when I consider the question of what writing really is, I always bring to mind a place called the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine, a society of physicians which met in a huge ancient house in a rundown part of the city, with an extensive medical library in the basement. My father was an officer in the organization, and had gotten my brother and me summer jobs there, dusting books or watching over the place while the regular librarian—an ex-lawyer and recovering alcoholic named Allen Lynch—was on vacation.
     The basement was huge, and filled with the kind of heavy glassed-in wooden bookcases that distinguished houses used to have in the early years of the century. The floor was a creaky hardwood, lined with rubber mats where you were supposed to walk. The building ran down a hill, so there were windows not only in the basement—high wide windows that let in plenty of light—but also in the sub-basement, a dank dark place with a cement floor and stone walls that housed some of the older books and also contained an extensive library on sex.

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Midweek Break | Cheryl Strayed Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, Nonfiction


Cheryl Strayed brings her voice to “Dear Sugar,” the advice column she has written for many years. Here, she reads selected columns in the Bread Loaf Little Theatre, dispensing advice to which we can all relate.

See more about Cheryl Strayed and her column at

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.

NER Classics | On Poetry Anthologies | Rachel Hadas

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

41THNY4FF3LRachel Hadas’ piece, “On Poetry Anthologies,” appeared in NER 19.4:

. . . It’s true that the best poetry anthologies give the impression of being not siftings from other anthologies but personal statements, even personal testaments. And the reader who browses through poetry anthologies also brings personal responses beyond simply liking one poem or disliking another. Increasingly, for example, what I notice in anthologies are mistakes. Richmond Lattimore seems to be undergoing a sea-change into Richard Lattimore; my own first name has been misspelled and my date of birth gotten wrong; and an anthology edited by the late M. L. Rosenthal confidently glossed a short lyric by James Merrill as being addressed to the poet’s wife. Even more than errors, anthologies are known for sins of omission—how could Poem X or Poet Y possibly have been left out? But though I sometimes lament the absence of one poem or the inclusion of another, such ins and outs concern me less than the wider matter of context . . . 

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New Nonfiction from Jill Sisson Quinn | NER 36.1

Categories: Nonfiction


Big Night | Jill Sisson Quinn

[view as PDF] US contains more species of salamander than any other country, but in an entire lifetime you may never encounter one. Salamanders—secretive, fossorial, nocturnal—exit underground harbors only in darkness. Even those that gather in great masses to breed do so without a sound, moving monk-like through the yammering of wood frogs and spring peepers to ephemeral ponds.

In the country’s eastern half, many folks would be surprised to find they share their neighborhoods with Ambystoma maculatum, the spotted salamander, a creature that looks like it belongs in the Amazon. Two uneven rows of big, bright yellow dots extend from head to tail on its dark, glossy body, a body I have always thought looks purple, though most field guides describe it as steel gray or black. Spotteds are stout and medium-sized; at four to seven inches long, they look like they’d make a good meal for something. But they’re not easy to find. Scientists tracking them with radio telemetry, through tiny transmitters surgically implanted into the salamanders’ midsections, discovered one spotted salamander living four feet underground. To find one of these brightly colored animals beneath a rock or within a log feels like hitting the jackpot.

My interest in salamanders renewed with surprising force the same spring my husband and I began the process of adopting a child. I had recently moved away from an area of high salamander density (from New Jersey, which has sixteen species, to Wisconsin, which has only seven) and ceased teaching environmental education; instead I was teaching English and spending my workdays indoors. Nevertheless, I aimed to be present for the annual nocturnal mass breeding of the spotted. There was a chance I would see them and a chance I wouldn’t, these creatures that seemed scarce but were relatively numerous, that lived singly all year long but on a single evening gathered in multitudes. It was just this odd combination of uncertainty and possibility that I would need to embrace in my journey to becoming a parent.

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Jill Sisson Quinn’s essays have appeared in Orion, Ecotone, OnEarth, and many other magazines. She has received the Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction, a John Burroughs Essay Award, and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her work has been reprinted in Best American Science & Nature Writing 2011. Her first book, Deranged, was published by Apprentice House of Loyola University Maryland in 2010. A regular commentator for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life series, she lives and writes in Scandinavia, Wisconsin.

New Nonfiction from Chris Nelson in NER 35.4

Categories: Nonfiction

Speaking of Neil Young | Chris Nelson

doc00796420150107153744 copy[View as PDF]

As a junior in high school I found myself humming along to Neil Young’s “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold” whenever the local classic rock station decided to take a break from Aerosmith or Boston or AC/ DC. Senior year I’d take the scenic route home from football practice while blaring Harvest Moon in the used Mustang I shared with my older brother, driving past the cornfields just as the setting sun made them glow and feeling nostalgic for the innocence I had yet to lose. First semester of college I was getting high to his 1969 self-titled solo debut, and by spring I waited for rainy days to wallow in my loneliness with the haunting On the Beach, playing it over and over on an old turntable of my father’s that I had restored. 

In accordance with the natural progression of other Neil faithfuls, it wasn’t until I had exhausted this mostly acoustic, more accessible singer/songwriter side of Neil Young that I was able to graduate to an appreciation of his electric work—the highest and most challenging level a Neil faithful can reach. And it took me even longer to fall in love with it. Only recently have I begun to figure out why: his style of playing, with its wailings and repetitions and clutter and incoherence, is my style of speaking. Like his guitar, I stutter.

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Chris Nelson is a writer living in New York City.

New Nonfiction from Laurence de Looze | NER 35.4

Categories: Nonfiction

The Piano is Always There: A Story of Lisbon | Laurence de Looze

Beco-de-garces-Lisboa3[View as PDF]

For the past several months I have been living with my partner, Aara, in the old Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal. A maze of tiny alleyways that turn into stairways as the streets climb up the steep hills from the Tejo river, the Alfama was once a Moorish quarter. Tucked behind the Sé, the city’s squat cathedral, the neighborhood survived the 1755 earthquake pretty much intact, and today it is one of the oldest areas of Lisbon. It is a very humble neighborhood—there are pensioners here whose already meager checks are being reduced by the government on an almost regular basis—though I wouldn’t call it “poor” outright. The people who live in the dark little dwellings that crowd these streets love the Alfama. They cannot afford to live elsewhere, but they don’t want to. Most of them were born in the apartments they live in now. Some of them have probably never even been outside the city limits.

Because the cobblestone streets are so narrow and can become escadinhas (steps) at any turn, it is impossible for a vehicle with wheels to get through. Everything is done on foot, and everything is carried in and out, up and down the hill, by hand. At first I thought that this would be inconvenient, even impossible. But I soon adapted to what feels like a nineteenth-century pace of life, and it has become endearing to me, even when I’m carrying provisions and trudging up the hill under a hot sun.

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Laurence de Looze publishes fiction, essays, and books on a variety of topics, including medieval literature. A native US citizen, he has lived for years in Canada where he teaches a variety of university courses. His fiction has appeared in Antioch Review and Ontario Review, and his book The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World, is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press. He is sorely tempted to move permanently to Portugal.

New from NER 35.3 | Travels with Richard Tillinghast

Categories: Nonfiction

Eastward Bound, Across a Storied Landscape | Richard Tillinghast

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Leaving Portland, with its microbreweries, Pacific Rim restaurants, lumberjack chic, and drive-through coffee stations, I drove east along the Columbia River Gorge on the first leg of a four-thousand-mile trip that would take me to northern Michigan and then down to South Carolina and Tennessee. The Gorge’s mist-wreathed granite cliffs, rising above the onrush of the Columbia River, look as though they could have been painted by a Chinese landscape artist from the Tang Dynasty. In late-afternoon light the stone takes on a purple glow. Taoist hermits might be meditating in caves up in those hills.

Above White Salmon, Washington, where I spent my first night, pioneer days had not, it seemed, entirely ended. As I drove up precipitous roads that reached up from the Columbia River to my nephew’s house, where I would spend the night, some of the hillsides had that desolate, shredded look that follows clear-cutting. One little house partway up, a shack really, was flanked on one side by a pile of rough-cut logs, each about the length of an American car from the fifties. It looked as though the householder had wrangled them there for sizing into smaller chunks as fuel was needed during the long winter. The month was May, but a cutting wind sliced across the steep hills. My nephew and I took his son, six years old, to his baseball game down in the town of White Salmon. The diamond, with its boys’ and girls’ coach-pitch three-inning game, and the pure Americanness of the scene, were thrown into perspective by the massive, timeless hills, verdant with the spring rains, towering above it.

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Richard Tillinghast is the author of twelve books of poetry and four of creative nonfiction. His Selected Poems came out from Dedalus Press in Ireland in 2009. He was a 2010-2011 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. His latest nonfiction book is An Armchair Traveller’s History of Istanbul (Haus Publishing, 2012), which was published in the UK and nominated for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. Tilinghast, who lived in Ireland for five years, returned to the States in 2011 and now divides his time between Sewanee, Tennessee and the Big Island of Hawaii.

New Essay from Natasha Lvovich

Categories: Nonfiction

Sister in Russian, Cousin in English | Natasha Lvovich

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She is walking on Park Avenue, elegant and slim, irreproachably fashionable, drumming Sinatra’s “New York, New York” with her high heels. Her allure is businesslike and confident: she is focused on her destination, on the potholes in the asphalt, and on countless rushed yet important thoughts, while at the same time she talks into her phone. Only real Manhattanites, fortunate to have been born on this celebrated land—firmly grounded, perfectly well-oriented, perpetually overbooked, and multitasking with ease—move with such a gait. She murmurs into her phone in a language that has been for centuries, for millennia, for eternity, her own: “Honey, don’t wait for me, just order yourself some Chinese. I’ll be home in a little while. Yeah, I know, I know. I’ll get you some. Love you.”

The trace of a Russian accent is almost imperceptible. Thank goodness for those caramel English words, which make her a different person and a different mother than her own, less dramatic and less rough around the edges, with the sweetened texture of an American mom raised in an Upper West Side apartment. She looks at her watch; she checks her messages; she passes her hand over her platinum hair as if to make sure the makeover hasn’t melted away.

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Natasha Lvovich is a writer and scholar of bilingualism and of translingual literature—literature written in non-native language. Originally from Moscow, Russia, Lvovich teaches academic and creative writing at City University of New York. She is the author of a collection of autobiographical narratives, The Multilingual Self (Routledge, 1997). Her creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Life Writing, New Writing, Big.City.Lit, Post Road, Paradigm, Nashville Review, and Epiphany, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.