One of the most fulfilling things to occur this past year was when I got asked to join the features editors team for nonfiction pieces at The Rumpus back in February. I’d been reading The Rumpus for years, on the metro to and from jobs in DC, during my meal breaks in LA, and in the after school hours in Kyrgyzstan while the western hemisphere slept.
If you’re not familiar with The Rumpus, just know that Cheryl Strayed used to do an advice column there and Roxane Gay was the founding essays editor there, and Lyz Lenz credits working there as managing editor with the kickoff of her journalism career. After #metoo took out the founding editor, Marisa Siegel took the helm, and eventually it was she who brought me on. Who knows what the future holds for this little literary ship, but I have loved The Rumpus for a long time and am so delighted to be on board.
Editing is one of my purer pleasures. It’s a place where I don’t ever feel like I have to either flex to prove my smarts or hold back to avoid stepping on toes. It’s instinctual for me, like baking used to be and tarot is, like being able to translate the different shades of a baby’s cry to intuit what they need in that moment. I’m in my element, and getting my hands into the muscles of a piece and massaging them until they offer up fluid, lyrical motion is deeply delightful to me.
Of course, editing is not an act like surgery where the other party is sedated and unresponsive. Writers have strong opinions and are protective of their work, for good reason: you’re seeing the result of their most vulnerable experiences after they’ve first been metabolized enough for outside exposure. It’s touching something living and in pain, usually. And the writers who have been vulnerable and generous with themselves to work on their pieces with me are brave souls I cherish with utmost respect. They’ve done the hardest work in this process, and so I want to share with you the fruits of their labor.
One project that was especially collaborative this year was the Food & Family theme month series spanning the holiday season, co-edited with Alysia Sawchyn. Alysia has a book of essays coming out this year, btw—you can pre-order it here. I can’t wait to read it.
The pieces I worked on in this series (and one I didn’t, but want to share anyway) are:
Butcher Knives at the Ready by Lia Dunn (seeing yourself and your culture’s food through white eyes, and loving it with gusto)
Imagine A River of Milk by Rebekah Denison Hewitt (breastfeeding struggles, plus history!)
Days Since Last Workplace Injury by Clancy Tripp (self-care, in its most real sense. a novice teacher trying to feed themself and care for their students all at once, and how much community is essential to that.)
Gourmand by Carmella de Los Angeles Guiol (a father’s love of food and a daughter’s adapting to his reduced self as age erodes his tastes)
and the one I didn’t work on (bc she’s a friend), Bounty by T.S. Mendola (with one of the best lines I’ve read in a while, about a mother who said she “didn’t cook, not that I can’t cook”)
There are a few others to come in this series (which I worked on) before the end of the year, but these are the ones published so far.
The other pieces I worked on this year are:
“The Bent Hourglass: Living In Crip Time” by Hope Henderson ( living with disability and the shifting sense of self in time that can come with that experience)
“Split Chins, Open Coats” by Anna Leigh Knowles (I think I gravitate toward novice teacher stories, this is another one. lyrical, haunting.)
“Day Trip” by Sophia Moskalenko (single parenting while your children’s father is incarcerated)
“Magic Numbers: A Story of Wanting in Pairs” by Christie Tate (addiction, father/daughter tensions, struggling to eat well)
“The Myth of The Lazy Mothers” by Ukamaka Olisakwe (post-partum recovery: sense of self and the body too)
I loved working on all of these pieces, and each of these writers did what I asked in revisions with such care and enthusiasm. Please read their work and find them on Twitter and tell them how much you enjoyed their writing. Everyone deserves to be told how good their work is. I feel so lucky to have been a part of their publication processes.