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Telling Our Stories: An Invitation to Next Avenue Readers

We are seeking original essays with an insightful perspective on aging


Part of the Vitality Arts Special Report

There are as many wise words about why writing a story matters as there are stories themselves.

Consider these:

Write what should not be forgotten. — Isabel Allende

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. — Ernest Hemingway

And, of course, this: If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. — Margaret Atwood

Nobody’s story is perfect, just as no one’s life is perfect.

The past several months have been unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. Just a little over two months into 2020, coronavirus struck the world with a vengeance, leading to quarantine, fear, loss, illness, isolation, frustration and sadness. In May, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer resulted in protests across the nation, more fear, loss and sadness, but also a call to action, a demand for respect and change.

Every day on Next Avenue, we tell the stories of what makes us different and where we share commonalities. It is our hope that readers will glimpse themselves in someone else’s story; find a nugget of information they need; or discover a fresh perspective on an issue relative to aging.

We’re looking for insightful essays that illuminate a truth or teach us something new.

As the pandemic persists, and life continues to swirl around all of us in unexpected ways, perspective has taken center stage. You may have discovered there has been more space for quiet, like the calm in the center of the storm. Perhaps the quiet is not always welcome, but it is there. In the quiet, opportunities for reflection, for finding perspective, can emerge. Stories are waiting to be told.

What Is the Story You Want to Tell?

In a first-of-its-kind initiative for Next Avenue, we would like to invite you, our readers, to tell your stories.

From July 24 through August 31, readers age 50+ may submit a 500-word original essay focused on a topic or experience of your choosing. We’re looking for insightful essays that illuminate a truth or teach us something new.

Share a personal perspective with fellow readers about what it means to “act your age.” Tell us how you have found resilience in difficult times. How has growing older surprised you? What is the story you want to tell?

The Next Avenue editorial team will select 12 essays, representing a diverse collective of voices, for publication on the site this fall. Additionally, the essay writers will be invited to read their stories for a specially-created Next Avenue podcast. Each of the 12 writers will receive a $75 stipend.

Some guidelines:

To give voice to those who do not work as professional writers or journalists, this initiative is open only to writers who have not previously been published on Next Avenue.

  • The 500-word format should be strictly followed; longer essays will not be considered.
  • Be sure to check spelling, grammar and punctuation before submitting your essay.
  • Please give your piece a title.

Beginning on July 24, you may submit your work here. One submission per person, please.

We are looking for engaging and well-crafted personal narratives.

If your essay is chosen, you will be notified in September.

Sharing Inspiration and Resources

Maybe you have a journal full of ideas, ready to go. Or maybe you are intrigued by the idea of writing a personal essay for Next Avenue, but don’t quite know where to begin.

Telling Our Stories spot art

Beginning on Monday, July 20, Next Avenue will launch a “Telling Our Stories” series of essays and dedicate the week to offering inspiration and resources.

We have asked writers including New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg, National Poetry Series winner and author David Mura and Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich to share their wisdom about writing, and why it matters. Their essays will be posted on Next Avenue throughout the course of the week, and on our Facebook page.

We’ll conclude the week with the publication of a guide created exclusively for Next Avenue by Minneapolis storyteller Dane Stauffer, featuring wit, wisdom and actionable steps to take if you are ready to write a personal essay.

When Next Avenue began planning this initiative, almost a year ago, we had no idea where the world would be today. We simply wanted to provide our readers with the opportunity to write an essay about their lives that reflected a particular moment in time.

Right now, this idea seems especially meaningful, and the words of acclaimed writer, Joan Didion, 85, ring even more true: We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

Julie Pfitzinger, editor of Next Avenue, wearing a light blue shirt in front of a mauve background.
By Julie Pfitzinger
Julie Pfitzinger is the editor for Next Avenue’s lifestyle coverage across the Living and Technology channels. Her journalism career has included feature writing for the Star-Tribune, as well as several local parenting and lifestyle publications, all in the Twin Cities area. Julie also served as managing editor for nine local community lifestyle magazines. She joined Next Avenue in October 2017. Reach her by email her at [email protected].

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