Magic, and other innovations.

This past week I (finally) completed edits on the additional materials for two pieces that, although they were part of textBOX’s launch this past January, have very patiently been waiting for their extra pieces to join them online. To Cynthia Miller Coffel’s Editors’ Prize winning essay “Letters to David,” we have added an introduction, questions, writing prompts and a brief note from the author. As with all of the additional materials provided on the site, the goal is to enhance readers’ experiences, to illuminate a particular aspect of the text, or encourage consideration of some of the piece’s subtler elements.


Rural mailbox photograph by Mark McGee

In the note that accompanied the essay when it was first published in TMR, Coffel describes her motivation, saying, “I wanted, in my essay, to honor the generous impulse of my twenties—working to help all those poor people, trying to make our country better—and I also wanted to treat that impulse lightly, to admit that it was mixed up with arrogance and exuberance and naiveté. I also wanted to honor my friendship with the man I’ve called David. I think that kind of friendship is one you can only have at a certain point in your life.” Understanding the author’s intent can have a profound impact on a reader’s approach and while intent may not be everything, in this case Coffel’s explanation simply clarifies the tender, yet honest evaluation of her own past that is evident throughout “Letters to David.”


L. E. Miller’s short story “Kind,” is also about a woman reflecting on the life she led in her early twenties, although of course this story is fiction and its protagonist, Ann, a fictional character. In addition to adding our usual introduction, questions and writing prompts, I am pleased to announce that “Kind” is the first textBOX piece to be presented with a full audio version. Recorded along with the first-ever audiobook edition of TMR in early 2007, “Kind” is read by Mark Kelty and you can listen via the toolbox in the right sidebar of all the pages on which “Kind” and its additional materials appear.

There is a special kind of magic in listening to stories read aloud. More than once over the past decade I’ve found myself sitting in a parking lot, transfixed by PRI’s Selected Shorts, unable to complete whatever errand I intended to run until I’ve heard how the story ends. At AWP a few years back, I attended a Selected Shorts performance of B. D. Wong reading Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral,” and remember feeling as though the other thousand or so audience members simply weren’t there. It’s as if being read to can hold me perfectly in the present by reminding some part of my subconscious of the pleasure of being read to as a child.

(I admit this resembles my childhood not at all, but I like the photograph.)

Adding full audio versions of the stories, essays (and eventually poems – more on that soon, I promise) on textBOX has been something we’ve been thinking about for a while. This summer we are going to make it happen. “Kind” is just the first of many. William Harrison’s short story “Eleven Beds” has been recorded and will be edited soon, and our new team of anthology interns are already hard at work selecting which essays and stories will be next.

In the meantime, if reading “Letters to David” along with Cynthia Miller Coffel’s commentary, and listening to “Kind,” leave you wanting more, you can always listen to all of the pieces from The Missouri Review’s first audiobook issue (30.4, Winter 2007) here. Of course if you like that, you can always subscribe to our digital issue, which comes complete with a full audio version four times a year. And if that’s just not enough storytelling for you, maybe my favorite fiction podcasts (here, here, and here) can tide you over until we can get back down to the studio and start making more magic.

Nell McCabe is The Missouri Review’s Anthology Editor.

Introducing textBOX

After much editing and formatting and organizing and planning, our new online anthology is finally ready and everything (well, almost everything) is set. There are a few extra materials that still need to be reworked a bit, but all of the stories and essays scheduled to be a part of the initial launch are ready and posted.

Here it is:

textBOX: an anthology of exceptional fiction, essays and poetry originally published in The Missouri Review.

I owe a huge thank you to all of the amazing interns who have contributed to this project; it very literally could not have been done without them. We’ve been lucky to have such talented and dedicated students assist in transforming this project from an idea into a reality.

As with any new website, I’m sure there will be kinks to work out, but I hope you’ll both bear with us and also send us notes and suggestions for improvement as you explore the site. Our goal is to make textBOX not only a place to find some of the best work we’ve published over the years, but also a resource for teachers and students. In the coming months we will continue to add to both the collection of literature and the supplementary materials accompanying each piece. We will also be developing the poetry section of the site and hope to have at least a small collection of pieces ready by the end of the spring semester.

We would love to hear what you think of the new site! You can comment on this post, or email us directly at

Coming Soon to an Internet Near You!

For about the past year or so, in addition to reading submissions, working on my own writing and offering Michael plenty of unsolicited advice, I’ve been working on a secret project, one that is now almost ready to see the light of day, and one that I think you, our loyal blog readers, should be among the first to hear about.

On January 24, 2011, we will launch textBOX: an online anthology of exceptional fiction, essays and poetry published in The Missouri Review since 1978.

The anthology project has been slowly developing, gradually gathering steam for almost three years. In the beginning, it was just an idea: what if we could find a way to keep some of the really good stuff from being buried in the archives?

Evelyn Somers has been with The Missouri Review since 1986, and has been Associate Editor of the magazine since 1990. She has worked closely with many authors of fiction and non-fiction over the years, polishing their stories and essays until they gleamed, ready for publication. Each issue of the magazine is published, celebrated, distributed, and then… what? Some of our back issues (2004-present) are available through the Project Muse database, but of course not every library can afford to subscribe to every database. Some pieces are later published in a collection by the author, and a few are selected for republication in the Best American series.

But what about the others?

Evelyn began to wonder if there wasn’t some way that we could reach down, deep into the archives, and pull out those few gems that had stuck with her through the years: the stories or essays that had resonated, hit a cord that was so pitch perfect they lingered in the air for years after their issue had been boxed up and set aside to make room for the next one.

The Internet has made so many things possible, and an online anthology emerged as the perfect means through which to help some of these remarkable pieces once again see the light of day. As the idea continued to develop, it began to merge with another idea that had been floating around TMR’s offices: organizing some sort of reading group and finding new ways to foster literary community and discussion.

Working with a team of graduate students and interns, Evelyn created an initial template for how each piece would be presented to readers along with a brief introduction and a selection of interpretive questions. In its early stages, the anthology seemed ideally suited for teachers of contemporary literature, but we soon realized the potential for creative writing groups and classes as well, and craft-oriented questions and writing prompts were added to the template.

For the first couple of years the anthology – nameless, websiteless – existed as a side-project: something to be worked on in spare time, bits and pieces. Last spring and summer, in between coursework, finishing my thesis, and occasionally paying some attention to my children, I began working with Evelyn to turn the anthology from an idea (and a list of amazing stories and essays) into a reality. Finding time to work on the project became a whole lot easier once my thesis was finished and my daughters went skipping off to school for another year.

Since then things have really begun to take off. My two interns (Molly and Hannah – both very bright and dedicated) and I have spent the past few months building a website and compiling, reading, rereading, analyzing and creating additional content to accompany some of the most fantastic literature ever published by The Missouri Review. We’ve tracked down authors across the United States and as far away as Israel and Japan, renegotiated contracts, gathered information and formatted it just so. Soon, very soon (January 24!), the anthology will be ready. Until then, keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook for more details and if you’re not already following us on Tumblr, now’s the perfect time to start: over the coming weeks we will be posting excerpts of the amazing essays and stories that will appear in full on textBOX at the end of January.

Nell McCabe is the anthology editor of The Missouri Review.