TL;DR: New essay!
This past autumn, I had two gifts from the San Juan Islands-based Shark Reef Literary Magazine. Today I have a third.
The first was their enthusiastic acceptance of a piece I wrote while riding one of Amtrak’s multi-day routes. I loved the long retreat of the journey, through landscapes known and loved. Also I was inhabiting a familiar type of solitary, shapeless, longform longing, which I recognized instantly when I read Brene Brown describing “high lonesome.” I tend to turn those elements into writing.
The second: an editor’s perceptive questions and suggestions, which pushed me to revise and polish the piece in ways I would not have accessed on my own.
It’s an unusual piece, for me, a form I wasn’t aiming for at all. I tried originally to write it as a poem. Its animating force is restraint, but just barely, and I wanted to convey that though sheer density of imagery. A poem seemed the best way to hold and highlight that.
But the rhythm of the writing insisted stubbornly on prose. What I sent to Shark Reef was an essay, of the flowing, wandering sort I usually write. The editor recognized was it was meant to be, and came back with both general and specific requests to shorten, tighten, truncate. This piece, they said, wants to be something like a long prose poem.
Once they said it, I realized I’d known it all along.
Of course I believed that what I originally submitted to Shark Reef was my best. It was editorial collaboration, though, that lent me clarity, and also helped Coast Starlight Up the Home Meridian find its true identity. I remain something like shocked at how much an experienced critique, and permission to write off-genre, have changed this piece for the better. I’m so grateful to the editing team, and in particular to guest editor Noel Mariano, for their care.
Because of them, I’m doubly proud of the finished, published version, the third gift. You can read it here.