Image’s 16 Most-Read of 2016

top16of2016-with-textAs I was looking over Image’s website analytics at the end of 2016, I confess that I was overcome with affection and gratitude for you, our online readers. Your attention has painted a picture, and it is a significantly different picture than many other outlets show.

The New Yorker, for example, introduced their most-reads thus: “Americans, as you may have heard, like to read about Donald Trump and his family. Readers of The New Yorker are no exception to that rule, but they also like some other things, too….We like sex, we like death, and we like music.”

Well, Image readers also like sex (see #5) and we also confront death (see #12). And it’s certainly not that we tune out the realities of politics (see #16)—but, given this list of the most-read articles on imagejournal.org in 2016, I feel justified in suggesting that Image readers seek to cultivate a different state of mind. To slow down, to look deeper, to press against the frantic inertia of the world. To inhabit spaces of creative tension—by reading ecumenically, by reading honest accounts of tragedy and grief right alongside comical stories that poke fun at religious culture (see #11 and #12). [Read more…]

Reading (in) Walden

607px-walden_thoreauWhat are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave.… To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise…. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object.

Yes, it’s Thoreau. I’m re-reading Walden. Why? Because it’s on my bookshelf, and I’m in the process of interrogating each book there. The choice: either read it or get rid of it. I hadn’t read Walden in decades, so I pulled it from the shelf.

Though I admire Thoreau’s radical simplicity—if something isn’t a necessity, get rid of it! and my shelf-purging seems to be in Thoreau’s spirit—the book’s opening hundred pages lay it on too thickly for my taste; too much finger-wagging at people who are attached to even minimal property.

But this short chapter called “Reading”: this one is a treasure. [Read more…]

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Me

2801238240_9f85e7974b_zAt night at the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, SD, we can see the pale, translucent arm of the Milky Way divide a sky of a million stars. The small bright point of a satellite zips across to our left with striking speed and intention. We can’t see the same sky from Evanston, IL.

Down the hill at the homestead, ten acres of corn, beans, and oats are discernible only as a dark patch in a wider expanse of dark. We know that several horses, mules, and ponies must be sleeping in their stalls in the stable, and the kittens that live in the hay-roofed stable have made their rounds of the campground and retired to snuggle in with their exhausted mother.

Our boys have finally quieted down in the tent, and we’re ready to climb the stairs into the tiny covered wagon where we will sleep tonight. We know the boys are exhausted, but they were also worked up from a day of riding horses and wagons and making rope and playing with baby animals. The little one chose a simple wooden jumping jack toy from the gift shop, a toy not so different from the one Grace received for Christmas in By the Shores of Silver Lake. [Read more…]

From the Engine Room, Part II: Mountains of Time

By Mary Kenagy Mitchell

image journals

Continued from yesterday.

 Up until this point, in describing what it’s like to read Image’s unsolicited manuscripts, I have not said much that an editor at any journal might not say, but of course, Image is not any journal.

“Art, faith, mystery” is on our masthead—and we have a long history and a community that expects work engaging certain themes.

In the sorting process, the question of whether a piece is “Image-y,” as I gracelessly put it in my notes to the editor, comes second, after I’ve decided that I think it’s good.

There could be, in theory, an approach to literature in which the two questions are really one question. That is, a belief that deep engagement with ultimate mystery is the thing that makes a piece of writing worthwhile—but that is not my school.

[Read more…]

From the Engine Room, Part I: The Problem with Efficiency

By Mary Kenagy Mitchell

manuscript

About a year ago we at Image dragged ourselves into the twentieth century and started accepting unsolicited submissions online. We had held off partly because we were worried that the numbers would balloon—and the amount of work we receive did immediately triple. (We’ve added another reader to help us keep up, but if you feel like you’ve been waiting a while to hear from us, now you know why.)

Though we’ve had to budget more reading time, all in all, the change has been a good thing. Having more submissions lets us be even choosier, of course, and there’s more international work now. (We still accept paper submissions but they’ve slowed to a trickle.)

Since I’ve been spending more time reading submissions lately, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of that work. When I was a young writer sending work around, the selection process at literary magazines was mysterious, and though there is already plenty of wonderful advice for writers out there, I thought I’d share a little here about what reading Image submissions is like for me personally. [Read more…]