Call for Submissions: Definitive Guide

What defines a definitive guide? A definitive guide is correct and complete, demonstrating full comprehension and practical mastery. Guides are texts and people that disseminate knowledge: manuals, how-tos, and tour guides. A guide is only definitive, however, for a moment  in time. Technology and fashion change, leaving experts on things like lace bonnets or JavaScript ES1 in the rubble of history. Any guide can fail. Every guide becomes obsolete.

How do we recognize the guide’s display of skill? We love the experience of watching someone do something well—skill can be a spectacle, the graceful performance that only appears easy after years of putting in the work. But not every display is meant to instruct. There are several archetypes of mastery—the magician, the guru, the genius—that we can witness without expecting step-by-step instructions. Guides are defined by their pedagogical function—they make the world legible.

Given the instructional purpose of the guide and its finite lifespan, we want to know what knowledge, relevance, or interest makes a guide desirable. Guides proliferate as guidebooks, how-tos, and instruction manuals that share practical knowledge. We also look to guides for instruction on those skills that are rarely acknowledged as such (for example, those that involve invisible labor and those called “soft” skills, which refer to abilities required in interpersonal contexts).

Dilettante Army’s Fall 2023 issue, Definitive Guide, will examine the figure of the guide as a person or a text. We aim to unpack the “how-to’s” of a range of different subjects, from “low-skilled” work to esoteric career specialities to navigating different social milieus. What are the politics of the guide? What makes it timely? 

Prompts might include: Baedeker’s Guides, Mina Loy’s Lunar Baedeker, YouTube tutorials, forgotten skills, docents, local tour guides, Bob Vila, Bob Ross, bildungsroman, Nate Silver, What Not to Wear, Michelin stars, forestry, IKEA instructions, novels of manners, Henry James, Anarchist’s Cookbook, reading group discussion guides, The Pickup Artist, and craft demonstrations.

Submission proposals should be emailed to editor Sara Clugage ( by Thursday, July 20. For more information about what we’re looking for and how to pitch, check out our Submission Guidelines.

Image: Bob Ross, looking toward the camera, holds a palette in front of a painting in progress of a tree. Image  courtesy of The Best of The Joy Painting with Bob Ross/PBS.