Submissions Call: Nonlinear Travel Writing

by David Miller Dec 21, 2010
So often, narrative writing follows the same patterns of chronology and forward momentum. Here’s an opportunity for writers to submit narratives based on new structures.

LAST WEEK, Matador published a story by Jamie Brisick, author and former pro-surfer. If you haven’t read The Surfboard as Memory Stick, please check it out now; it’s a super innovative story. Jamie uses different boards as points of entry into places, memories, juxtapositions.

Here’s an excerpt:

2. Waikiki Beach, summer of ’77. It’s a family vacation of “The Brady Bunch” sort. We stay at the Reef Towers, with white-water views of the very spot where Duke rode his legendary mile-long wave, where Rabbit and Kimo and Scooter Boy pushed bikini-clad haole girls from California into their first waves, where Jack London would write beautifully about surfing and thus kick off a movement.

I rent a banana yellow Morey Doyle from a stout beach boy with beer breath. At first it’s like trying to drive a semi-trailer truck through rush hour traffic. But once I get the hang of it I’m hooked. The vibrant greens and blues of the reef, the swishing turquoise, the wash of spray shooting off the rails, the sea breeze blowing back my hair and making me feel ten feet tall…

I love how this piece conveys Jamie’s relationship with surfing, people, and places in a way that a straight linear narrative couldn’t. Memory is episodic. It tends to build itself around set pieces, moments that stand out from the day to day flow.

Memory recall rarely seems to occur in a linear way, but more as a kind of rhizome, a piece of a fractal, a cluster of juxtapositions, emotions, and characters.

Why then, is so much of travel writing and narrative nonfiction presented in the same linear format, the same 5-act Aristotelian-Freytag pyramid structure most of us probably learned in high school?

I like writing where events and details and moments aren’t just presented but more like accreted. Where chronology functions not so much as a floor but more like a ramp.

With this in mind I wanted to invite submissions of non-linear travel stories of all kinds. Consider using a structure based around artifacts like Brisick’s boards (earlier this year I tried a similar experiment, taking an inventory of things lost, stolen, or given away because of travel) or perhaps you can try some other way to look at travels (this year I also tried recalling episodes in terms of distances.) Or maybe you can devise something totally original.

Please submit your pieces to with “non-linear travel writing” in the subject line. Any word length is fine. Questions? Please ask in the comments below.

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