“The experience was (I imagine, only) like one’s first bungee jump — a long, somewhat tedious wait, followed by a rush of excitement, exhilaration and gratification of some primitive need, followed by gradual calming, followed by wondering why I was ever inclined to do it. Yet thinking it might be an OK thing to do again.” — Stephen J. Brown
650 is interested in short essays on specific topics to be read aloud, by the author, at staged readings throughout the year. The pieces can be original, or can be excerpted or adapted from your earlier work. Submissions are evaluated by an editorial committee of professional writer/editors, and you can read about them on our “About” page. Our live event readings are professionally recorded, archived, and uploaded to our YouTube channel. They may then be featured in our podcasts, broadcasts, and anthologies, though they remain yours to publish again somewhere else if you so desire. Submissions should be a maximum of 650 words, enabling you to read the piece aloud within five minutes.
• All submissions should be in double spaced, 12-point Times New Roman type, with one-inch margins, complete on two pages. The author’s name, address, telephone number, and email address should appear at the top of the first page with the total word count displayed beside the title. Please include A 150 word (max) biography, with weblinks, if desired, and a color head shot for programs, posters, and social media. Please see our guidelines for head shots below.
Upcoming Topics and Deadlines
IMPORTANT: At present, our live events are produced in the New York metro area and lower Hudson River Valley. If selected, can you travel to those areas for the performance?
Return to your fondest—or most harrowing—memories with a personal story about marching band or mean girls, bus rides or best friends, homeroom or home grown. The cafeteria, the pop quiz, the field trip, the school play . . . Let’s hear about those wonderful and awful days—from algebra to zits (or even the reunion!). • EXTENDED SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 1, 2018 / Show date: 3PM Sunday, April 29, 2018 • Ossie Davis Theater at the New Rochelle Public Library
Tell us about your worst summer job. Did it involve physical labor, low pay, or an embarrassing costume? Kids and animals? What indignities did you endure, and what friends did you make? How did you spend your hard-earned money? And what life lessons did you learn that summer?
. • EXTENDED SUBMISSION DEADLINE: May 1, 2018 / Projected show date: Sunday, June 10, 2018. New York City venue to be determined.
A time to celebrate our cultural traditions, a holiday breaks routines, prompting a three-day weekend in the sun or a three-hour snow delay at the airport. Some holidays are lightweight and fun, others freighted with tradition and obligation. Often a time of high emotion, holidays trigger happy memories or set the stage for family drama. Let’s hear your holiday stories—from sunburn to heartburn.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: September 1, 2018 / Show date: 3PM Sunday, October 21, 2018 • Ossie Davis Theater at the New Rochelle Public Library
650’s broad topics encourage a range of expression. If you’d like to suggest a topic, please contact us.
Submitting Your Work
Timing • Submissions may be sent to us at any time, year-round.
Response Time • Our response time varies from one to four weeks.
Submission Fees • We do not charge fees to read submissions and are strongly committed to featuring good writing.
650 uses Submittable as our submissions manager. Click the link below to enter your contact information and send us your essay, biography, and photograph.
Head Shots and Video
Your photo needn’t be shot by a professional, and most people do fine with a smart-phone snap (please avoid the selfie and ask someone for help). The photo should be horizontal and uncropped, showing you from mid-chest up, as shown, with even lighting (no harsh shadows) on your face, and a background that doesn’t distract. NOTE: A 4″ x 6″ image at 300 dpi (dots per inch) is acceptable for printing (or approximately 1,200 x 1,800 pixels—dimensions shown in the photo’s file info on both Mac and PC). Need some guidelines on what makes an acceptable headshot? Click here. Or here. Or here. Or maybe even here.
Some Tips on Writing for 650
We’re most interested in true personal stories, and 650 is open to anyone with a good tale to tell. A few years ago Hugo Lindgren shared this excellent advice for submitting a “Lives” essay to the New York Times:
• More action, more details, less rumination. Don’t be afraid of implicitness. And the old Thom Yorke line: “Don’t get sentimental. It always ends up drivel.”
• If it reads like it would make for a Hallmark TV episode, don’t submit it.
• Meaning (or humor, or interestingness) is in specific details, not in broad statements.
• Write a piece in which something actually happens, even if it’s something small.
• Don’t try to fit your whole life into one story.
• Don’t try to tell the whole story.
• Do not end with the phrases “Looking back now . . . ” or “I realized that . . . ”
• Tell a small story — an evocative, particular moment.
• Better to start from something very simple that you think is interesting (an incident, a person) and expand upon it, rather than starting from a large idea that you then have to fit into an short essay. For example, start with “the day the Santa Claus in the mall asked me on a date” rather than “the state of affairs that is dating in an older age bracket.”
• Where, exactly, did it start?
• Write past what you think the end of the story is. (Hat tip to Raymond Carver.)
• Do not make it about illness or death, unless that is the story you have to tell.
• Try an Oblique Strategy.
• Go to the outer limit of your comfort zone in revealing something about yourself.
• Embrace your own strangeness.
• If you can’t write it, try telling it.