Dispatches | April 07, 2011
Vibrancy, Stability and the Process of Selection
Nearly ten years ago I worked as part of a small non-profit agency whose mission it was to empower the local youth and help them find alternatives to the drugs and alcohol that had become a real problem for our rural community. The organization was not just for kids, but had been founded by kids, and was run by kids. The vibrancy of the organization in its early days would be hard to beat, but turnover was high. Most of us only worked there for a year at the most before going off to college or moving on to something more lucrative. Energy and enthusiasm may have been high, but information fell through the cracks all the time and work that had been done by one group of kids was regularly being redone by the next.
One of the things that I have come to not just appreciate but truly love about The Missouri Review is that we have the best of both worlds. Our internship program delivers a new crew three times a year, each of them eager to learn the inner workings of a successful literary magazine and all of them bubbling over with fresh ideas. At the same time we are lucky enough to have Speer Morgan, our now-Editor-in-Chief who has worked on the magazine since its inception in 1978 and Associate Editor Evelyn Somers who has been with TMR since 1986. This incredible—and I would argue, rare—combination of institutional memory, wealth of knowledge and vibrant rejuvenation is one of the things that makes The Missouri Review the journal it is today.
It is also one of the things that has made selecting material for inclusion in our (still new) online anthology, textBOX such a rewarding experience. We’ve written a couple of times recently about how work is selected for each of our issues: how each one comes together through a process that requires both collaboration and individual attention to detail. Reading our way through the slush pile is, in my opinion, still the best way to find the work that makes its way from hand to hand – you have to read this one, the way the pieces come together at the end is fantastic! – so that each story, essay and poem builds a loyal following before it is even officially selected for publication. But when it comes to choosing pieces for the textBOX anthology, the process is necessarily different.
As I wrote a few months ago when I was preparing the textBOX site for its January launch, many of the pieces included in our anthology have been those that stayed with Evelyn or Speer through the years. However, it’s not just Speer and Evelyn for whom these pieces have resonated. Many of them have also won awards or been selected for inclusion in anthologies such as Best American and O. Henry. In our own offices each intern who has worked on the questions or introduction for a piece has fallen in love with it in the process. Each is remarkable in its own way, and it is with great pleasure that I am able to announce the addition of two remarkable pieces to textBOX:
“Eleven Beds” by William Harrison was included in his collection, Texas Heat and Other Stories, which won the 2005 Texas Review Fiction Prize. Beginning with a couple’s first sexual experience and following their relationship through the years, “Eleven Beds” uses an unconventional narrative structure to present eleven defining moments in the lives of Will and Myla, revealing deep truths about the power of human attraction.
“Big Jim” by Robert Kimber won our Editors’ Prize in 2007 and was included in the anthology A Place Called Maine: 24 Writers on the Maine Experience, a collection of works by authors living in Maine, edited by Wesley McNair. During the summers of his youth, Robert Kimber helped maintain his father’s dream, Big Jim Pond Camps in Maine; there he found an unlikely mentor in Don Yeaton, the caretaker. “Big Jim” is an elegy for a person, a place and an era now gone, by an essayist well-versed in the traditions of the nature essay.
I hope you enjoy these additions to the anthology as much as we have.
Nell McCabe is the Anthology Editor at The Missouri Review.
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