Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Jaime Faulkner

When I’m reading nonfiction, I’m looking for strong sensory detail and a solid voice from the speaker. The best kinds of essays are the ones that start with a high level of specific detail and open up to the reader, allowing them to reflect back on their own experiences. This occurs through developing the setting with concrete imagery. Whether it is focused on just one striking event or transverses months or years, sensory details are essential to understanding how the characters are shaped by their surroundings — and to ground the audience in those moments.

Consider Hamartia: The Failure to Recognize, Rachel Toliver’s essay in Issue 151 of TriQuarterly. The essay is highly personal, lush with detail, and uses location to stunning effect: The street is empty except for a little boy who wears only shorts and stands solemn in his black body. He takes up the middle of the pavement and he stays there, face quiet in the midst of concrete curbs and locked car doors. I can sense, looking at him, the translucent column of his personhood there, patient inside his chest. The scene suspends the boy in the moment, and Toliver allows the reader to rest in that image with her. In just a paragraph, it develops space and setting very quickly with details that provoke thoughts about politicizing black bodies, childhood, and observing the inner world of other people.

I am looking for deeply personal essays — because I’m reading to learn from the speaker, develop my own empathy and try think about the world in new ways. It can be tempting to overgeneralize; as Mary Karr says in The Art of Memoir, “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” However, when speakers shy away from the gritty details, the story suffers. Vulnerability and thoughtfulness are exactly what I’m looking for in nonfiction. Not every piece needs to be sentimental or overwrought, but I want the speaker to really dig into the memories they choose to share and to clearly show readers why these thoughts matter.

I believe the best literature encourages readers and writers to reach out and learn from each other, and that’s where nonfiction shines. By grounding a story in rich sensory detail and honest reflection, the speaker is allowing us to live, briefly suspended in their moment.

Jaime FaulknerBio: Jaime Faulkner is a junior at Arizona State University majoring in Communication. She is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review, as well as a volunteer editor with Four Chambers Press. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in publishing as an editor and author.


#ArtLitPhx: District 4 Presents – A Four Chambers Takeover

District 4: Four Chambers Takeover

Four Chambers Press is taking over the mic at District 4! Pam Davenport, Jaime Faulkner, and Orlinda Pacheco  will be featured on Thursday, January 19th, at 7pm. Check out the Facebook Event page for more information.

Pam Davenport settled in Arizona after traveling the world throughout her childhood. She thinks it is strange for humans to live in the desert, which is probably why she is there. Pam has an MFA from Pacific University, and her poems have recently appeared in The Avalon Literary Review, Snapdragon, Rougarou, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Spilled Milk Magazine, and Bared: An Anthology on Bras and Breasts

Jaime Faulkner is a student and poet living in Tempe, Arizona. She’s been writing privately since she can remember and publicly for the last year. She has published with Four Chambers and Fem Static Zine.

Orlinda Pacheco is an MFA graduate from California State University, San Bernardino whose poetry embraces the sacred with the profane. Her poetic moans grope at the reality of infertility and expands the walls of being female. Her work has appeared in the Badlands Literary Journal, Inlandia, Poemeleon, and San Diego Poetry Annual.