Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot

"Writing begets more writing. Meaning grows on the page."

Sample Poem

Watching my Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea
by Rebecca McClanahan

Needing them still, I come
when I can, this time to the sea
where we share a room: their double bed,
my single. Morning fog paints the pale
scene even paler. Lace curtains breathing,
the chenille spread folded back,
my father's feet white sails furled
at the edge of blue pajamas.
Every child's dream, a parent
in each hand, though this child is fifty.
Their bodies fit easily, with room
to spare. When did they grow
so small? Grow so small--
as if it were possible to swell
backwards into an earlier self.
On the bureau, their toys
and trinkets. His shaving brush
and pink heart pills, her gardenia
sachet. The tiny spindle that pricks
the daily bubble of blood, her sweet
chemistry. Above our heads
a smoke alarm pulses, its red eye beating.
One more year, I ask the silence.
Last night to launch myself
into sleep I counted their breaths, the tidal
rise and fall I now put my ear to,
the coiled shell of their lives.

Current & Upcoming Publications

The Kenyon Review

• ART-I-FACT: The Family Memoir Triumvirate
New post on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog Read

• "Dependent"
An essay reprinted in a new anthology "Red, White, & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII-Present" Kindle Edition

• "Adopt a Bench" (an essay about New York)
The Sun Magazine Read an excerpt

• "Things Gone the Way of Time"
An essay in Brevity

• "Interstellar"
In a new anthology, You: Essays Devoted to the Second Person

• Interview
Kenyon Review, Winter 2013
Read the interview

• "Family History Meets Memoir" (a craft essay)
Writer's Digest Magazine, March/April 2013

The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings
(a book of essays) University of Georgia Press, re-released as paperback

• "Everywhere at Once, 1903" (
adapted from The Tribal Knot)
Kenyon Review
Read an excerpt and download a free copy.

• "The Soul of Brevity: Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Brief Essay"
Read an excerpt.
Order a copy.

• "Ginkgo Song" (an essay about New York)
Kenyon Review, Summer 2012

• "Hope and Wait: A Chapter from the Family Archives" (1918), adapted from The Tribal Knot
Gettysburg Review, Summer 2012

"Annual Conference, 8000 Writers Expected"
River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Winter 2012

Sample more of Rebecca's work

Contact Info

Rebecca McClanahan