The purpose of this collaborative web platform, Breaking Ground, is to inspire, commission, and convene the best reflection from a wide array of voices to equip tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, and caring citizens to participate faithfully in a world being remade. It is fundamentally a rethinking project, one that seeks to offer a creative and vital lens borne out of two thousand years of Christian social thought and an uncommon unity called forth in this hour, to provide moral leadership and institutional vision to a society in need of both.
Content on Breaking Ground will be organized by the following three pursuits. Please use these, if they are helpful to you, to assist in generating your ideas. Not every piece, however, will fall neatly into one section, and if thinking in these terms is not helpful to you in framing your pitch or developing your ideas, feel free to disregard.
- Seeing clearly and deeply: What exactly is being revealed in this current crisis? About society? About the state of our own hearts?
- Learning from the past: How have plagues, and other crises, historically provided opportunities for new beginnings, new building, a renewal of institutions and cultural norms?
- Imagining the future: What institutions need renewing now, and how might that happen? What might be born anew in this time, and how do we help in the building?
It’s a collaborative effort between Comment, Plough, and The Davenant Institute, and is a project under the auspices of Cardus. Editorial decisions are entirely those of the Breaking Ground team, and partner organizations are responsible only for those pieces originally published under that organization’s name.
Writing for Us
Breaking Ground is happy to accept unsolicited manuscripts and pitches. Writers should familiarize themselves with the website, noting our commitment to literary excellence and charitable, non-polemical—but also not preachy or cute—prose. In the midst of this crisis, prose seasoned with narrative vividness, wit, and elegance will be a gift to our readers. We’re looking for non-bland analysis, argument, approaches, and topics that you can speak to from a position of intelligent engagement (whether because of deep interaction with the topic, or a shaping personal history or encounter, or both).
Breaking Ground will publish broadly on issues at the intersection of the present complex crisis and Christian faith, thought, and practice, as these are understood through the framework of the ancient ecumenical creeds. We are also eager to include voices from outside the Christian traditions, as we seek wisdom together.
The approaches and areas of inquiry that we’re interested in are wide. We’re looking for pieces that highlight the work of individuals, communities, the church, civil society, and even government. We’re looking for pieces that address families, education, protests, civil order, race, social inequity and ways to overcome it, the natural world, technology, and the transformation of everyday life.
These pieces don’t need to directly address either the COVID-19 virus or even the specific crises surrounding it, although we would like plenty of those pieces. What they do need to do is in some way to contribute to the work of cultural exploration, understanding, midwifery, and repair that we’re called to now. We want to call on all the resources of wisdom that we can in responding to this historical moment.
Writers should aim at an intelligent general readership. We do not condescend to our readers, but we don’t assume that they have specialist knowledge. When terms of art are mentioned, they should be briefly explained, or put in contexts where their explanation is self-evident. Language level is approximately that of The Atlantic or The New Yorker, but style may vary according to writers’ individual voices, the nature of the piece, and so on.
Breaking Ground uses The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), seventeenth edition.
Where possible, please work narrative citations into the body of the text (e.g., “In her novel The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat describes . . .”). Where such citation would impede readability, flow, or attribution, however, writers should, if absolutely necessary, use endnotes (rather than footnotes). Discursive endnotes should be minimized. Please embed links where necessary.
We are open to pieces of a wide variety of lengths, though 3500 words will generally be the maximum.
Paying our contributors as well as we can is a priority for us; pay will generally depend on length and depth of research/reporting. Payment will be upon publication, which is not guaranteed, though we will do our best to work with you so as to be able to publish any piece that we commission.
Manuscripts should be submitted in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx) and can be sent to Susannah Black. Pitches can be in the body of an email. Please include a two-sentence biography with an embedded link to your homepage, if applicable, and to any social media profiles you’d like to add.
As well as a publishing venture, Breaking Ground aspires to be a community of conversation. The intense isolation that many are experiencing now makes that communal project yet more important. That means having specific times in which we come together. We are committed to hosting a series of events—at first online, and, as it becomes possible, in person. If you have an idea for such an event, please feel free to contact us as well.
Our readers and writers are our best source of recommendations. If you know of a writer or content producer who ought to be featured, please tell us about him or her, providing links to representative selections/publications. If you have a suggestion for what that person might write about, please don’t hesitate to let us know about that as well.
Taxonomy of Pieces: General
- Reported feature (2000+ words)
- Thinkpiece (2000+ words)
- Mini-feature (800–2000 words)
- News item with value add (800–2000 words)
- Response to a previous piece
- Symposium (written)
- Video symposium
- Spiritual autobiography
- Voice from the outside (a non–North American speaking into our society)
- Bibliographic essay
- Photo essay
Types of Pieces: Specific
(These are merely a sampling of possibilities )
- How individuals and families are responding creatively, with a proactive how-to feel
- Profiles of “doers”
- First Person: Stories from doers in their own words
- Stories of loss and stories of hope
- Slightly feel-good, playful pieces
- Editorializing on policy change or public response
- Visions of the way we might shape the world in the future
- Thinkpieces about aspects of this time
- Readings: Primary sources, looking at (among other things) how Christians and others have responded to disasters. If you have a suggested reading, please feel free to let us know.
- Historical pieces telling stories of how societies, and Christians, have responded to and gotten through epidemic disease and other disasters
- “A Paradise Built in Hell”: Stories of communities/instances of solidarity that emerge in this time of intense pressure