I was talking with one of our authors this week, and she mentioned how hard it is for her to write those bios that go at the ends of our essays and poems. I know where she’s coming from– reducing an entire life into three or four sentences inevitably means that something is lost.
But I actually really like the exercise of being forced to distill a life down to its essences. Perhaps that’s why I’m more than a little obsessed with obituaries. It’s not a morbid fascination with the dead; it’s because I’m endlessly curious to see how families choose to remember their loved ones, the details they put in, and what they leave out seems to say a lot about what they value.
This month, both of our creative nonfiction authors focus on individual character traits. Katie Stirling’s “The Price We Pay for an A” expresses an impulse that many of us may find familiar– how a straight-A student copes once she graduates. In our archive piece, “The Taste of Love,” Lisa Otteson Fillerup associates her mother’s presence, and therefore a mother’s love, with food. What’s interesting about Fillerup’s piece is that she presents the distillation of image she has of what someone else means to her. In our poem this month, “The Guests” by Terresa Wellborn, the speaker is a guest who presents images and expectations from an encounter she had.
As a mother, I often find myself resisting the urge to label my children’s character traits, but both of these pieces show that delving into a trait and analyzing it can be beneficial for both authors and their audiences. So as you spend time with your family this holiday season, rather than getting annoyed by the things members of your extended family do, simply consider them fodder for your stories.
Shelah Mastny Miner
Note: We are also delighted to be showcasing the art of Katrina Berg in the blog and journal for the next several months. Katrina, who lives in Midway, Utah with her husband and five young children, draws on her education in architecture and the world outside her door as she paints (often with twin toddlers at her feet). Her work often features domestic spaces, landscapes, birds, and combinations of the three.
Poetry: “The Guests” by Terresa Wellborn