Liquid Stories: Writing & Teaching the Personal as a POC in White Literary Spaces
by Freda Epum
In a meeting with a prominent prize-winning author, she asked me, “Are you sure this really happened the way you think it did?” I was writing a series of poems confronting microaggressions I experience as a woman of color in predominantly white spaces. It was a poem about getting a flu shot in which the nurse focused on my dark skin noting that she “could not see the blood.” At the time, I was merely excited by the opportunity to meet with such a prominent author that it did not hit me that I was in fact talking to an older white woman with very different life experiences. The critique was short, “seems like you know what you’re doing.” I felt dismissed. Of course the black girl knows how to write about the black things. It was fitting.
In my early twenties, I ached to be a writer, but the stories I wrote were never as good as I wanted them to be. Even worse, sometimes a story idea that had initially seemed promising would fizzle out midway through. I thought that surely this didn’t happen to “real” writers, who, in the grip of the Muse, produced fully-realized stories from the get-go. And then I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in which she insists that nearly all good writing starts with a “shitty first draft,” that writing is an inherently messy process, that the bulk of it is, in fact, re-writing.
I’d thought I was done. It had taken me five years to write my first book, a densely researched work of immersion and memoir set in the context of yoga in the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d conducted dozens of hours of interviews and cited over a hundred texts and unpublished letters. It sold as a completed manuscript and took another year to get through edits, production, and blurbs. Who knew there was still more to overcome. And who knew that what I learned from the experience would, many years later, help me confront a traumatic and unspoken fact from my family’s past.
The Power of a Vacant House
by Monica Macansantos
Gene and I hadn’t seen each other in years when I heard about his mother’s passing, and I felt I had to visit him when the news reached me. I took a taxi to his house as soon as he texted me his address, hoping that my presence would bring him the same comfort that I had craved from my friends as I stared in shock at my father’s casket the year before. Perhaps I was merely trying to ease the loneliness I carried with me after losing my father, for the rawness of my own grief gave me a sense of solidarity with those who had just experienced it.
On Teaching Again
by John Yohe
At the urging of friends, after moving to Salem, a little south of Portland, I apply for the part-timers teaching pool at the local community college, just to see. If it doesn’t lead to another full-time position, it’s not worth it. It’s a gamble. Which thousands of other adjuncts, young and old, are taking across America. Maybe being back in the ‘system’ will allow me the chance to be hired full-time again. I have doubts, based on what I’ve observed over the years, that no matter the experience, committees prefer younger candidates spouting the latest Comp Theory buzzwords. Though they have to also value experience. Though curious too to see if I still enjoy it, if there is a value beyond the monetary. If I can help, if I can give back, if I can make a difference, all the clichés. But I don’t want my experience to be a cliché. Something real happens. Or, it did. Of which I was a part: Learning. Real learning. My own, but more importantly ‘my’ students’.
A Natural History of Vulnerability: Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy and the craft of dialogic projection
by Campbell Copland
Written between the years 2015-18, Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy inverts the contemporary trend of autofiction (à la Knausgaard, Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti) by subsuming the subjectivity of the narrator/main protagonist in objectivity and otherness.
Structured as a series of conversations, both scheduled and encountered, between the narrator and a spectrum of other people – from former and prospective lovers (as in Outline, the first book of the trilogy), to the workers who’re handling her home renovations (as in Transit, the second book) – the narrator is given shape and outline by the stories of the people she speaks with, amounting to an oral history of sorts, detailing the ambiguity of modern human relationships in their infinite situational variation and complexity.
Types of Infinity
by Audrey Moyce
When I was a child, I was fascinated by the thought of being a totally different me. The me whose mom didn’t make me fertilize the roses with fish emulsion on Saturdays, but also the me who was actually my cousin, or a butterfly, or a potato. I especially liked thinking about being a potato.
As I grew older, I wanted to try on as many different identities as possible. I hated knowing that any choice I made would take me further away from all the other possibilities. Every yes a thousand no’s.
In order not to foreclose any opportunities, I made choices that were either impermanent or not all that committal. Choices I thought I could “undo.”
by Vanessa Blakeslee
“Go to the farm,” a voice inside me said, quietly but firmly—the voice I had lost touch with for some time. Midmorning, January in Florida, and I was sitting on the Lake Maitland fishing pier, part of the condominium complex where I’d lived for fifteen years. I found myself drawn to the lake, where the snakebirds and cormorants would fish and spread out their oily wings to dry in the sun, while I sipped green tea and waited for the cocktail I’d taken to kick in and calm my brain. The year before I’d spiraled into a dark depression, and, although outside circumstances had improved—I had gotten out of an abusive relationship, started working in a friend’s bookstore, and finished editing my first novel to be published in the fall—lately, alone, I found myself slipping down the rungs again. Terrified of the disturbing side effects that I’d experienced in my brief stint of taking antidepressants the previous year— night sweats, nausea, and most of all, emotional numbness—I was determined to claw my way out by other means this time, no matter what. So each morning, I popped GABA and theanine, eschewed coffee for green tea, and began my day among the sunshine and shore birds.