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…]

Microbes, Miracles, and Monstrosities

2765274506_049438a5d5_zI’ve always promised myself I wouldn’t work with anything living, a prohibition I applied first when, in high school, I job-shadowed a pathologist and fainted when watching a lung biopsy, fainted when seeing the wall of stored blood, fainted ad infinitum into the twenty-first century.

I couldn’t deal with watching pain, and I hadn’t considered that pathologists work not only with the dead, but with the suffering living, and with blood that is distinctly never where it ought to be. I’ve studied viruses for the past ten or so years, happy to research things that appear alive, yet are simply energized bits of rogue genetic material.

But for the past several months, I’ve been working on a new project, one that focuses on drug-resistant bacterial and fungal infections, and I can’t ignore the new relationships I have with living microbes that, like all of nature, can’t be characterized as good or bad. On the one hand, resistant strains are responsible for 23,000 deaths each year in the US, per the Center for Disease Control, yet their kin also let us digest our food and, back in the day, led to the emergence of an oxygenated atmosphere and all multicellular life. [Read more…]

Sitting Together: A Week at the Glen Workshop

14066373_10206865453981792_9089818213749029625_oI’m an introvert who loves to talk, an often confusing combination that can leave me drained in spite of myself, or perplex my friends when I suddenly slink off after an hour of raucous guffawing.

But I just spent a week in Santa Fe at the Glen Workshop, a gathering of writers, artists, and musicians who meet at St. John’s College every summer to hone their craft, eat and worship together, and listen to some of the world’s most inspiring creative people share their work. And it was there that I experienced several moments of healing and energizing silence.

Coming of age in evangelicalism, I heard Jesus’s words, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” quite a bit. But those words often evoked images of Bible studies, group prayer, worship services, or other intentional, structured activities designed to move me from point A to point B on the spiritual growth chart.

It never occurred to me then, that sometimes just sitting together can fill us with the Holy Spirit more than a flashy program. [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…]

Why We Write

9301874154_2571798618_zWhat is it about words that so moves those of us who are writers? We take the most common of media—language—and can’t resist caressing it, playing with it, taking it apart and putting it together again in some new shape.

Why do I love to write, even need to write? I’ve been pondering this question for decades, in various ways, various words.

Today I’ll start the pondering with some personal history: how I discovered my passion for words.

I was in my early twenties and had just started graduate school in literature—which I chose just because I knew I loved reading. But I’d barely started grad school when my husband got a year’s job in London. So we moved there, and suddenly I had my days free while he went to work. One day I went to the University of London to ask about taking some literature courses there.

Strolling through the University campus, I noticed the library and walked into it—and instantly I felt an excited, giddy sensation. It actually affected my whole body: my heart beat faster, I felt tingly all over, with a rush of energy—as if I’d just gobbled my entire stash of Halloween candies. [Read more…]


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