To Run and Not Grow Weary, Part 1

Three men running in a track covered with water puddles in the 1948 Olympic Games in LondonBy Jeffrey Overstreet.

So, why Chariots of Fire?

Why is that what I chose for tonight’s movie? Netflix is recommending all kinds of recent, highly rated titles. Why revisit this old DVD?

It happened like this:

Two hours earlier, I’d taken the car, planning to drive north to a waterfront park to work on my novel. I planned to walk along the beach and watch the sun’s long surrender while ideas filled my head. Then I’d veer into the nearest café or pub to scribble down scenes while they were fresh.

A strange way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Perhaps.

For me, it’s as automatic as it was for my father and grandfather to watch Sunday afternoon football, as it is for you to do what comes most naturally, and be what feels most like yourself. Filling pages with story—it’s what I’ve done every weekend since I was seven. When I don’t, I feel like I’m holding my breath.

What is that for you? Maybe running, parenting, or knitting. Maybe you read, hike, fish, or cook.

Just a mile from home, a tremendous fatigue settled over me. I slowed to a stop at a traffic light, turned off the radio. Silence. The light turned green, the road was open, and I may as well have been staring at a brick wall. I couldn’t bear the thought of going forward. The weariness I usually felt after four hours of filling pages with prose—I felt before.

A few minutes later, I was home. And my wife Anne was surprised.

“I couldn’t do it,” I heard myself say. “I got almost halfway there and then…” I fumbled for words. [Read more…]

Stopping the Press

Image Journal

By Mary Kenagy Mitchell

This is the time of year when we work on Image’s annual budget. Here in the excruciatingly lean nonprofit sector, there’s a sort of elegant efficiency to having very little to spend—but it also means that when we need to make cuts, we cut close to the bone.

I’m a practical person, and so I sometimes think about the money we’d save if we stopped printing Image. That is, if we went to digital only, like Paste did in 2010 (though I recently learned they’re making a push to return to print). We’d still publish the same wonderful content—the poems and stories and essays and interviews. You’d be able to see all the same visual art. Actually you’d see more of it, because we wouldn’t be constrained by the expense of printing in color.

All pixels cost the same. [Read more…]

The Gift of Interdependence

Glen Workshop Aubrey Allison poetry classBy Camellia Freeman

This story has many beginnings.

It begins with the great state of Ohio where I’d made my home for eight years. We lived in Columbus, and on late nights my husband and I would walk its city streets during summers so thick you could wade through them, cicada choruses surging like electric currents through the air, and we would talk at length about how I both dreaded and longed for the day we might leave.

It begins with the persistent loneliness that can make up the writing life, often paired with persistent doubt.

It begins with what I had dubbed the Season of Closed Doors, a season that seemed to go on and on, almost laughably—a sobering reminder that when you choose something, you are choosing it at the exclusion of all else and that the possibilities were never as endless as they seemed. Or with my fantasies about a writing mentor, or the feeling that I was finally in the right project, one that might someday, actually, concretely, become a real first “book.”

Or perhaps it best begins with Greg Wolfe’s phone call one April afternoon when he extended the offer of the pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming Milton Fellowship, and I took it.

This is a story about being welcomed into the Image community, which means that it is a story about true gifts. [Read more…]

Of Cookbooks and Lynchings

by Jessie.yang on flickr“Men and women in automobiles stood up to watch him die.” That’s the sentence one student recalled when I asked the class what was memorable in Eula Biss’s essay “Time and Distance Overcome.” The man who died was a black man “accused of attacking a white woman.” For his alleged behavior, he was “tied to a telephone pole and burned.”

After we discussed the short essay for about forty-five minutes—its structure, its late revelation of her personal connection to the subject—her grandfather was a lineman who broke his back when a telephone pole on which he had been working fell—I directed the students to the last section of Biss’s powerful Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, which offers additional information and reflections on the writing of each of the essays.

“I began my research for this essay,” writes Biss, “by searching for every instance of the phrase ‘telephone pole’ in the New York Times from 1880 to 1920, which resulted in 370 articles.”

This alone, I thought, is useful information for a first year college student: how one conducts research for this kind of essay. [Read more…]

My Own Commencement, Part 1: The Birth of an MFA

CampCasey_112_RutanThis post is excerpted from Gregory Wolfe’s final commencement address as director of the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing last month. Wolfe, who founded the program, steps down as director today.

Once upon a time—well, seventeen years ago, to be exact—I was contacted by Mark Walhout, the chair of the English department at Seattle Pacific University to consult with him regarding the possibility of SPU starting an MFA program in creative writing. He felt that as editor of Image I had the right sort of contacts to recruit faculty—and perhaps a bit of credibility with the literary community—to help kick-start the process.

“How odd that you called about that,” I said. “One of the long-term dreams among the Image editors has been to get involved with the founding of an MFA program.”

“Well,” he responded, “how would you like to come out here and start the program for us?”

I’d like to say it was as simple as that but these things take time and lots of elbow grease. We did indeed come to SPU but we still had a long road ahead of us. There was the matter of settling down, establishing the journal in a new location, and launching an extensive research process for putting together an MFA program proposal. A graduate writing program that sought to educate students in the light of the rich theological and literary heritage of the Christian faith had never been attempted before and we knew it would be looked upon with close scrutiny and even skepticism. [Read more…]