Who is inside and who is outside? This is a question that can resonate for us all on every level: the spiritual, the personal, the social, the political. As writers, this also includes: the literary. This has been a year particularly marked by the act of defining who is inside and who is outside. A respected poetry anthology grappled with an insider who controversially posed as an outsider. An American presidential election is awash in words like ‘walls,’ ‘them’, ‘us.’ A nation literally voted themselves off the island (or, more accurately, to remain an island both geographically and politically). And hundreds of thousands of people are trying to reach new countries by boat, by foot, by whatever means, unwanted and unsafe in both their homes and their destinations.
In this issue, our twelfth collection of true stories, you’ll find nonfiction storytellers pushing form, exploring where they feel IN, where they feel OUT, and what exactly this even means. Some show us where they’re lost, unknown, on the outside looking-in. Others enter familiar places and recognize how those spaces create barriers for others. Collectively, our nine contributors take us from Norway and Minnesota to Yellowstone and the Hundred Islands National Parks.
We’re grateful for the diverse issues, cultures, and sub-cultures into which our contributors take us, for their willingness to push and play with form, for finding new ways into unique subjects:
The experimental essay “Take an Island, Give an Island Back,” by Dustin Parsons, finds story in the waters and curves of his wife’s belly and one hundred islands in the Lingayin Gulf.
Melissa Chadburn explores the survival of a swallow and youth aging out of the foster care system in “The Readiness Assessment,” while Kelsey Camacho brings us to the northern region of Norway where the Sápmi teach us about family, climate change, and reindeer.
Jeannine Ouellette immerses you inside her childhood, alongside the unpredictability of the adults in her life in “Four Dogs, Maybe Five.” And Megan Goss bares all in her essay “My Body in Parts,” through which she explores love, fat, and daughters.
Helen Bar-Lev explores the dividing lines between religion and empathy in “Over the Wall,” as she guides us through the streets of Jerusalem.
A hybrid of portraiture and photojournalism, Matthew Hamon’s series “The Gleaners” captures the beauty and reverence of scavengers on a buffalo hunt along Yellowstone National Park.
In “The Day That Never Comes,” Brendan O’Meara brings us inside the emotional echoes of ambiguous loss through the parents of a missing woman.
Sarah Shotland explores what it means to be seen on the inside, but not on the outside, in her essay “On Visiting Prison, Again.”
This issue — our first prize issue — represents the winners of our Narrative Journalism and Personal Essay Prizes, two runners-up in each, and three editor’s choice selections. Congratulations to each of you.
Not to go unrecognized, our new editor Shasta Grant greatly assisted me in editorial process of this issue; assistant editor and fellow Jennifer Lang has had her hand in a bit of everything; and several members of our editorial team worked together to get every prize submission read in expedited time. A special thanks goes out to judges Bronwen Dickey and Paul Lisicky who took the pressure off of our team to select winners and runners-up from the stunning prose on our finalist lists. Together, we hope this collection will leave you considering the inside and out in your life, and take pause within its liminal space.
Maggie Messitt, Editor