by Alice Winston Carney

Alice for bio 3Writing is like being in the pilot’s seat of my single engine airplane, trying to recover from a stall, the ground rushing faster and faster towards me.

The flying lesson starts well. I am in the pilot’s seat; Eric, my instructor, beside me.  I taxi onto the runway, call the tower, “8330X-ray, ready for take off”, loving the sound of my confident, female voice.

I give the engine full power, pull back on the controls when the speed reaches 70 knots. The little plane rises off the runway into the clear California sky. I level the plane, execute a smooth turn, reporting to the tower, “8330X-ray at 1500 feet, turning right, heading towards Tahoe.”

Below us the green and yellow agricultural fields checker their way across the great San Joaquin Valley, bisected by the American and Sacramento Rivers. All the world is blue, gold, and deep green as we head towards the foothills, Folsom Lake a sparkling dot below us.

Then Eric says, “Reduce power to engine, pull back on the controls,” two acts that go against logic when you are 2000 feet above the ground in a small tin can.

“Time to practice stalls.”

My pounding heart overpowers all sound, color drains from around me. “No!” I want out of this airplane.

But I am training as a pilot. I must learn to fly in all situations. I cut power to the engine. We float through the sky in an eerie quiet. My hands sweating, I pull back on the controls, raising the nose of the airplane until all I can see is sky. The nose goes up, up, then gives a dip down. A warning buzzer goes off. I have put us into a stall.

“Push the controls in, fast,” commands Eric. This is the third, most illogical step. Pushing the controls in, away from me, aims us towards the ground, causes the airplane to gather speed, dive, straight at the tree tops and rocks.

“Push, push,” Eric, yells. “Keep the wings level.”

As I write this, many years later, my fingers quiver on the keyboard, my breathing is shallow, and my stomach lurches. I remember the fear as I pushed the controls fully forward, forcing the plane faster and faster towards the earth. All I wanted to do was let go, to have Eric take over, to be out of there.

To quit.

But I stayed with the airplane. As our speed increased, Eric said, “Pull back, nose up. Watch the wings. Give it full power.” I did. And there we were, flying level, the engine purring, the wings lifted by a cushion of air and motion, Folsom Lake blinking its blue eye up at us. Only then did I feel the dampness on the back of my shirt, the sweat flowing down my sides. Only then did I breathe.

This is how I feel about writing some days: that I can’t write; that I don’t know how to write; that if I do write, the words will fly out of control and I will be hurtling towards the earth; that I want out of the desire to write.

I have learned that if I hold on, keep writing through that fear, I will level out again, I will go to a place that teaches me lessons about myself and fear. Writing is the lift under my wings, navigates me through the huge blue sky to where I want to go. Writing can make me as proud as I was when I became a pilot.

Cowgirl cover72Alice Winston Carney is director of Hermit’s Peak Press, which publishes original voices of Northern New Mexico. In 2010, she published A Cowgirl in Search of a Horse, a memoir of growing up in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Along with the authors Gerald and Loretta Hausman, Alice runs the annual Green River Writers Workshop in Las Vegas. You can visit Alice at and on her Facebook page: greenriverwritersworkshop.

This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of SouthWest Sage and is reprinted here by permission of the author.


Creative Nonfiction Calls for Submissions Through April 2015

Are you looking for inspiration for an essay or short memoir piece? Read on to find calls for submissions with specific themes for Creative Nonfiction and Chicken Soup for the Soul publications. Have you already rewritten, reworked, and polished your true stories but don’t know where to go next? I’ve found a few paying markets looking for your writing, as well.

Creative NonfictionCreative Nonfiction is seeking submissions for several themed publications, previously unpublished up to 4,500 words. Stories should be well-written, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; compelling, evocative, vivid, and dramatic. All submissions must tell true stories and be factually accurate. Multiple submissions are welcome, as are entries from outside the United States. Submit online or by regular mail – a $3 convenience fee is charged to submit online. Payment is a $50 flat fee and $10/printed page, plus a copy of the magazine. The following are their current themes with deadlines through April 13, 2015:

Beyond “Crazy”: True Stories of Surviving Mental Illness
Although many people experience mental illness, either firsthand or through a family member, friend, or colleague, the stigma surrounding mental illness remains. Creative Nonfiction believes the most important tool we have for defusing the power of this stigma is sharing true stories and revealing the real people beneath the labels. The deadline for this one is very close (sorry!), but I include it here in case you have a piece ready to go. Deadline: February 9, 2015

Becoming a Teacher
This anthology will present readers with the world of education – true stories from the perspective of elementary and secondary school teachers, recalling and reflecting on the most salient moments of their careers. Deadline: March 9, 2015

The Weather
The weather affects everyone, and talking about the weather is a fundamental human experience. Send your true stories – personal, historical, reported – about fog, drought, flooding, tornado-chasing, blizzards, hurricanes, hailstorms, or whatever’s happening where you are. They’re looking for well-crafted essays that will change the way we see the world around us. Deadline: April 13, 2015

Chicken Soup for the SoulChicken Soup for the Soul has published anthologies, filled with motivating and inspiring true stories, for over 20 years. Submit stories that are exciting, heartwarming, or funny, written in first person, about yourself or someone close to you. Start “in the action” and draw in the reader. Speak from the heart. You may use a pen name. Online submissions only and not previously published. Up to 1200 words. Payment is $200 one month after publication, plus ten free copies of the book your work appears in. Follow the detailed guidelines to help focus your submission. As of the date of this post, they’re accepting submissions for five topics with deadlines through April 30, 2015:

♦ Volunteering & Giving Back
Share your true stories about how you found purpose, passion, and joy in your life through volunteering, or how a volunteer helped you. Volunteers are unpaid positions – save those stories about paid heroes for another book. Deadline: February 15, 2015.

♦ Dreams & Premonitions
Tell your stories about your dreams or premonitions and the impact they had on your life. What have you learned from your dreams? Did they come true, strengthen your faith or help change your life’s direction? Did a premonition warn you about something about to happen? Deadline: March 15, 2015.

♦ Make Your Own Luck
Luck is not always just chance. You have to be ready and willing to seize the opportunities in front of you. How did you take advantage of chance events and make the most of what life has to offer? How did your positive outlook change your life? They could also be amazing stories of plain serendipity. Deadline: March 31, 2015.

♦ Stories about the Christmas Season
They publish a new edition every other year, and 2015 is the year they’re collecting stories for their Christmas book. Share special tales about the holiday season – including Chanukah and Kwanzaa – from inspirational and joyous, to heartwarming and humorous. Only “Santa Safe” stories will be accepted so the magic isn’t spoiled for children. Deadline: March 31, 2015.

♦ Think Possible
Almost anything is possible if you think you can. You can dream big, overcome challenges, and turn adversity into opportunity. You can change your outlook, listen to your heart and move forward into the life you want. How did you “think possible” and how did it change your life? Deadline: April 30, 2015.

Here are three publications accepting any theme in creative nonfiction.

Malahat ReviewThe Malahat Review looks for stories strongly based in reality that enlighten or educate the reader through fresh insights, powerful use of language, and compelling storytelling. They accept all forms of creative nonfiction, including personal essay, memoir, narrative nonfiction, social commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, and biography, all enhanced by such elements as description, dramatic scenes, dialogue, and characterization. Online-only submissions. 1,000-3,500 words. Payment is $50 per published page, plus two copies of the publication in which the work appears. Response time is up to nine months.

The Masters ReviewThe Masters Review submissions for their New Voices category are accepted year round. New Voices is open to any new or emerging author who has not published a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction of novel length. They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions. Up to 5,000 words. Pays 10 cents/word up to $200.

Tishman Review2The Tishman Review is looking for personal essays, memoir, lyric essays and literary journalism of up to 3,000 words. Previously unpublished, original works. Accepts simultaneous submissions. Response time up to 90 days. Payment on a sliding scale between $10 and $75 based upon content and word count.

I’ve got a Christmas story I’m going to polish and submit. How about you?