There are months when I put together the creative nonfiction I’m going to present and all of the pieces, by some magic, do an astonishing job of exploring a particular theme. And there are months when the pieces, by some magic, do an astonishing job of talking about all sorts of different things. This is one of those months.
I’ve never been much of a believer in subject matter. I believe in writers. A writer who’s skillful enough can make any subject engrossing or even fascinating. There are any number of unpublishable stories—even true ones—on the theme of “Hey, look at my neighborhood.” Some of them even feature extremely kooky neighbors, to no avail. Anca Vlasopolos doesn’t need all of that. She can do a lot with a little, and shows us how in “That Happy Planet.”
Every now and then I present a writer whose work, I’d like to think, only I have the balls to publish. While it’s possible that an academic journal might publish a piece that attacks the educational system—including students and parents—is isn’t necessarily so. Thus I’m proud to give you an excerpt of “Hall of Fools” by Shamrock McShane. The title is apt, and so is the writer’s honesty.
“Every Third Sunday” by Clare Goldfarb is also a school story, but a very different kind. This is about a special kind of school for special students, back when the term “special education” did not exist. And since it’s a story about the dangers of pigeonholing people, it’s perhaps best that the term did not exist, although other, less flattering terms certainly did exist. This is the story of a special boy, masterfully told from the point of view of his sister.
Finally, Andrew Tonkovich returns this month, this time bringing us “Grace Paley: Some History, Together.” As it happens, Tonkovich has a good deal in common with Paley, in addition to page-by-page writing skill. He shares her ability to make us look at a subject that might seem over-familiar and force us to encounter it in a new way—and that’s an experience that’s always worth the read.
As always, I’m busy looking for new work to publish. I invite you to submit nonfiction on a topic of your choice. I’m looking for creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, and personal essays—with the understanding that these categories often overlap. Up to 10,000 words. Please submit work directly to me at [email protected]. I very much look forward to reading your work.