During the month of January, Black Lawrence Press author Ben Nickol is on board to critique fiction manuscripts. Ben's prose has been recognized by the Arkansas Arts Council, Best American Sports Writing, and the University of Arkansas, among other organizations, and he’s the author, most recently, of Sun River: Stories, which The Quivering Pen named a Best Book of 2019. Additionally, Ben’s stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Boulevard, Fourth Genre, Crab Orchard Review, Redivider, Fugue, Tin House Online, The Greensboro Review, CutBank and elsewhere. Since 2018, he’s taught in the M.F.A. program at Wichita State University.
Ben is accepting everything from flash fiction to full-length novels. The fees and parameters for each of these categories are as follows:
- Flash Fiction, up to two pages, $25.00
- Short Stories, up to 20 pages $50.00
- Chapbooks, up to 40 pages, $195.00
- Novellas, up to 100 pages, $325.00
- Short Story Collections, up to 180 pages, $450.00
- Novels, up to 300 pages $700.00
All manuscripts should be double-spaced and formatted in 12-point font.
The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is January 31. Ben will complete his work and respond to all participants by February 28.
Space in this program is limited, so please be sure to submit your work soon!
Ben Nickol's Statement of Purpose
Whether a novel or short story, a work of fiction above all else is a feeling, a notion. Without getting too religious, it’s the spirit that moves behind any literature’s words, and when assisting with a manuscript my first job is to detect that spirit and acquaint myself with it. I need to investigate what this work—your work—strives to be, so that I don’t set about trying to twist the narrative into my own or some other writer’s aesthetic.
With a sense of this spirit in hand, I can start to assess how the work engenders its big parts. What comes in what order, and what ought to come in what order? In other words, if the heart of the story is alive and beating, then where should it take us and what should it conjure? It’s all too easy, writing fiction, to mistakenly talk over our own stories. To rush them, or bog them down, or by some other means wrest them off course. Part of my job as a consultant is to help a writer relax and stand back, and see where the story wishes to travel, and at what velocity.
Till this point, all of that work is structural: what happens in what order and what causes it to happen. The final tier of my work as a consultant is at the sentence level. What strategies does the writer use to infuse life and motion into their sentences? Where does that succeed and where doesn’t it? What other strategies could they use? If the process works, then what the writer comes away with is a vision of their fiction, top-to-bottom, that they can use to inform, hone and ultimately realize a vision of their own.