Each issue of The Writer takes shape with an implicit editorial theme that we discuss and target with our contributors. Typically, we never refer to the theme in the way other magazines call out their “food issue” or “summer reading issue.” Our themes are less concrete. For instance, our implicit theme for this issue is “feeding the soul of the writer.” We chose interviews and reporting that, in some way, address the inner world of writers and the inspiration that keep our souls healthy and motivated for this work.
In the course of editing the magazine each month, we also find an unexpected theme that organically rises to the surface. It’s as if the writing muses are working their own magic, handing us a gift that we hadn’t anticipated but that we eagerly welcome. These organic elements arise simply from the name of a writer who is coincidentally cited or quoted in two unrelated stories. We might joke internally about the “Edgar Allan Poe issue” or the “Toni Morrison” issue.
The unbidden theme for this issue emerged in the Ann Hood interview, at the end, when Hood and I are discussing fear. When I asked her what writers should be fearless about, she answered:
I think the word is fearless because once writers start editing how they do what they do or what they’re writing about, I think you’ve already lost what you need to be doing. So I think being a writer is emotionally brave, and if you can’t go there, maybe you’re not ready to do it yet.
Emotionally brave. The words jumped off the page because they struck me as the exact ingredient for feeding a soul. Bravery may not always be easy. But it certainly forces us to prevail in the presence of danger and fear, which nearly every writer confronts.
As I read the other stories in this issue – interviews with Mitchell S. Jackson, Beverly Donofrio, Lissa Warren, Jane Isay, Peter Godwin and Patti Hartigan’s story about writing partners – I was struck again by the courage it takes, the fearlessness required of a writer. You face your demons. You kill your darlings. You recollect in a state that might not be called tranquility. You press on. You show up at the blank page or screen.
Yes, we hope this issue feeds your soul. We also hope it puts a fire in your belly to strive for fearlessness and to achieve emotional bravery, which lies at the heart of every good piece of writing.