Read650 is interested in short essays on specific topics, 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 our live performances 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 choose. The maximum length of 650 words translates to a five-minute spoken word piece.
Upcoming Topics and Deadlines
IMPORTANT: Currently, our live events are produced in the New York metro area and lower Hudson River Valley. If selected, you must be able to travel to those areas for the performance.
Our "Gratitude" event this coming January 4 is presented in collaboration with Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and the New York Classical Players.
The format will be a departure for Read650, with six writers presenting personal stories of gratitude on stage in Act 1, followed in Act 2 with a performance by the New York Classical players of Ludwig van Beethoven's opus 132, a string quartet performance of his profound "Holy song of Gratitude."
In addition to the essays presented on stage, selected "Gratitude" submissions will be curated by Read650's editorial committee in a printed anthology available for sale at the event and on Amazon. Please see our general submission guidelines below.
Submission Deadline: November 1, 2019
Show: 2:30PM, Saturday, January 4, 2020
Venue: The Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
You Don’t Have to Be Jewish
Tales of a religion and a cultural identity. Whether you found the afikomen at Passover or your roots in America, whether you were raised Jewish, keep Kosher, or crave treif, share your experience and your story in 650 or fewer words.
Submission Deadline: January 1, 2020
Show: 3PM Sunday, March 15, 2020
We’ve all got one, and so did she. Maybe you’re a mother, or you’ve seen others in action. We’re interested in stories about mothers, mothering, and various act of motherhood, from any and all perspectives.
Submission Deadline: March 1, 2020
Date: 2PM Sunday, May 10, 2020
Venue: City Winery NYC
Submitting Your Work
All submissions are received via Submittable and should be in double spaced, 12-point type. 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 125 word (max) biography, with weblinks, if desired, and a color head shot for programs, posters, and social media. Be sure to include your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram handles, and please see our guidelines for head shots below.
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.
Read650 uses Submittable as our submissions manager. Use the link below to enter your contact information and to send us your essay, biography, social handles, 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?
Looking for guidelines on what to wear—and what not to wear—on camera?
Some Tips on Writing for Read650
We’re most interested in true personal stories, and Read650 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.