Black Lawrence Press

Creative Nonfiction Consultations with Joe Oestreich

During the month of March, Black Lawrence Press authors Louella Bryant and Joe Oestreich are on board to critique creative nonfiction manuscripts; and they are accepting everything from flash-length essays to full-length manuscripts. The fees and parameters for each of these categories is as follows:

  •     Flash Essays, up to 2 pages in length, $15
  •     Essays, up to 20 pages in length, $45
  •     Chapbooks, up to 40 pages in length, $150
  •     Manuscripts, up to 180 pages in length, $350
  •     Long Manuscripts, up to 300 pages in length, $700

All manuscripts should be double spaced and formatted in 12-point font.

The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is March 31. The consultants will complete their work and respond to all participants by April 30.

Space in this program is limited, so please be sure to submit your work soon!

Note: Please do not send manuscripts that promote hate speech, are intended to harass or bully a specific person or group of persons, or include glorified sexual violence.

Click Here to Submit

Statement of Purpose

Here’s my fundamental tenet about writing: The process is for the writer; the product is for the reader. It follows, of course, that we need to write with the interests and needs of our readers in mind. In my own work, I envision a reader that’s generous and enthusiastic—but also mildly skeptical and not easily swayed by flash over substance. My ideal reader wants an emotional and intellectual experience—not one at the expense of the other. My reader yearns for mystery and wonder—but doesn’t truck with confusion.

So when I consult with other writers, I try to position myself as a kind of ideal reader for them. This doesn’t mean that I immediately buy what a writer is selling. But it means that I’m curious. I hope to be won over. In the back-and-forth of a manuscript critique, I help writers identify what their piece is trying to say and whom that piece expects to reach. Then we work on the specific craft elements that might bridge the gap between aspiration and execution, including character development, narrative voice, scenework, form and structure, and that great white whale of literary nonfiction: writing toward an understanding of what our experiences mean.

I’m enthralled with nonfiction because of the diversity of its subgenres: those that invite the writer to look inward (e.g. memoir and personal essay) and those that compel the writer to find material beyond the self (e.g. narrative journalism and cultural criticism). The range of subjects and flexibility of approaches are seemingly boundless, and I’d be happy to consult on pieces that adhere to tradition as well as those that resist convention.

One challenge of a manuscript consultation is the question of whether it’s more productive to work on the view-from-thirty-thousand-feet issues or start polishing at the granular level. I try to do both. I’ll give you feedback on wide-angle topics like form, scope, and theme, but I’ll also zoom in from time to time to discuss how you might make a sentence clearer and more precise.

Most importantly, I’ll engage your work with humility. Writing isn’t math, and I don’t claim to have the definitive answers. I can, however, give you a clear sense of how your work strikes me: one generous, enthusiastic (yet mildly skeptical) reader among (hopefully, fingers crossed) many.


By Joe Oestreich

Black Lawrence Press accepts submissions and payment of the entry fee exclusively through our online submission manager, Submittable. We are not able to accept submissions via email or postal mail.

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Upcoming Consultations

April – Poetry Consultations

May – Fiction Consultations

Joe Oestreich

Joe Oestreich is the author of three books of creative nonfiction: Partisans (forthcoming in 2017 from Black Lawrence Press), Lines of Scrimmage (co-written with Scott Pleasant, 2015), and Hitless Wonder (2012). His work has appeared in Esquire, Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, The Normal School, and many other magazines and journals. Four of his essays have been cited as notable in the Best American series, and he's received special mention twice in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He teaches creative writing at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, where he directs the MA in Writing program.

Oestreich Author page