Assay 4.1 (Fall 2017)
As I write this note to open Assay's fourth year of publication, it is with a heavy heart. This week we lost a member of the Assay family, William Bradley, to cancer. This spring, cancer took Brian Doyle. And yet, this last week, we watched the dance of sun and moon that cooled the earth for a few minutes in the heat of the day, sent crickets into song, and humbled the humans who watched it, in spite of ourselves.
It's a good reminder that it is here that nonfiction thrives. In these spaces between the world and ourselves, in those moments where the world defies everything we have been taught about how it works, that is where nonfiction finds its energy, its friction, its heat. We write and read against loss, to find ourselves in place, to understand the injustice of things. Life is full of wonder, even in the pain of it.
What strikes me about this issue of Assay is the role of relationships: the relationship between John Hersey and Thornton Wilder's novel that formed the structure for Hersey's famous "Hiroshima"; the relationship between writers and extreme loss in Amy E. Robillard's pedagogy contribution, where she argues, "What ten years of teaching the personal essay has shown me is that we have to remind ourselves, again and again—and again—that we live in a society that asks us, always, to come up with the easy answer, the quick fix, and the happy ending." In nonfiction, we rarely believe in endings, only moments that give us pause. Jennifer Case considers the relationship of the writer to the natural world at a time when Hurricane Harvey is messing with Texas. Jacqueline Doyle gives us a Virginia Woolf-esque treatment of Judith Ortiz Cofer, who recently passed away. What relationship do we have with the writers around us and their work? Where do we see the spheres of influence they have, even when those writers are gone? Woolf has been gone for a long time, yet she still influences many to find rooms of their own. Brian Doyle is gone, but we have five writers meditating on the role his work has on them and how we should approach it in the future. Nonfiction does not exist apart from the world. Its analysis cannot either.
In the space of this loss, we have good news to report! We welcomed three new Senior Editors to our ranks, Julija Sukys, Jenny Spinner, and Christine Cusick, each an established, vibrant voice in their own fields of creative nonfiction. We've also added three new Contributing Editors to join Taylor Brorby. Creighton Brown, Jennifer Dean, and Micah McCrary join us from the University of Kansas, Fresno State, and Ohio University, respectively. Each brings a particular angle to our conversations of nonfiction. We have published many of these voices here in the past--if you aren't familiar with their work, get to know them! Creighton has also taken over as our Social Media Editor and has opened up the world of Instagram to us. If you don't follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you will want to!
In the Classroom will start up in October with its weekly posts to My Favorite Essay to Teach and Writers to Read, curated by our magnificent Managing Editor, Renée D'Aoust. And we do have a surprise unveiling for you, a new, major addition to our Assay work, which will also be unveiled in October. Fall is always my favorite time to be a nonfiction writer (where's my BAE?) and so I'm so thrilled to offer this new issue of Assay to you.
Onward, as we are able.
Karen Babine, Editor