River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative is recognized as a national leader in publishing quality essays, memoir, and literary journalism. It was co-founded in 1999 by Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman, professors at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. In 2019, following the retirement of editors Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman, River Teeth moved its primary location to Ball State University under the leadership of Jill Christman and Mark Neely. Read more about the move to Ball State here.

River Teeth has grown from a biannual journal edited by two professors with stacks of envelopes in their offices to a lively, multi-platform literary editing organization that not only continues to print the best of today’s nonfiction in River Teeth, but also publishes a weekly online magazine of micro-essays, Beautiful Things, monthly book reviews of contemporary nonfiction, and essays to support River Teeth in the classroom. We also sponsor one of the most competitive literary nonfiction book prizes in the nation.


River Teeth Fall 1999

Volume 1, Number 1
Fall 1999

Good Writing Counts and Facts Matter

From the very beginning, River Teeth has been dedicated to the simple premise that good writing counts and that facts matter.

River Teeth—a conceit that writer David James Duncan draws from in his own writing life and traces in the opening essay of our first issue—brings together several tributaries of this factual writing. One branch flows to us from the sorts of journalists who have been pushing at the edges of newsrooms for years now: demanding more space in newspapers and magazines; finding room to breathe with a story, to worry over it, and to watch it develop; buying the reporting time to seek out the details that will make it work…

Another stream springs from personal experience and the stories of family and community that bubbles into essays and memoir.  These stories are written by authors who understand their responsibility to facts as well as their commitment to literary style, all the while understanding, with Tobias Wolff, that “memory has its own story to tell.”

To these two sources we add a third: the sort of thoughtful, critical essay that examines the emerging genre of literary nonfiction and that explores the impact of narrative on the lives of its writers, subjects, and readers.  These essays examine how material is gained and how it is presented.  They draw out the implications of writerly decisions that at first seem merely stylistic, but which gain social power of problems when applied to the real lives of writers and their subjects.  They explore the impact that such stories have on the people whose lives they report.

– Editor’s Notes, River Teeth, Volume 1, Number 1

River Teeth: A Longer Introduction

By David James Duncan, 1995

When an ancient streamside tree finally falls into its bordering river, it drowns as would a human, and begins to disintegrate with surprising speed. On the Northwest streams I know best, the breakdown of even a five-or six-hundred-year-old tree takes only a few decades. Tough as logs are, the grinding of sand, water and ice are relentless; the wood turns punk, grows waterlogged, breaks into filaments, then gray mush; the mush becomes mud, washes downriver, comes to rest in side channels which fill and gradually close; new trees sprout from the fertile muck.

There are, however, parts of every drowned tree that refuse this cycle …


Joe Mackall


Dan Lehman


Jill Christman

Senior Editor

Mark Neely

Senior Editor

Todd McKinney

Todd McKinney

Managing Editor

Thomas Larson

Book Reviews Editor

River Teeth Journal Readers
Steven Harvey, Contributing Editor
Michelle Harris
Andrew Kistler
Jay Langley
David MacWilliams
Laurie Murray

Beautiful Things Editors
Jill Christman, Editor
Mary Gilmore, Managing Editor
Katie Mathew, Image Editor
Michelle Webster-Hein, Contributing Editor

Beautiful Things Readers
Jessie Ferree
Cassidy Fisher
Susan Lerner
Todd McKinney
Mark Neely
Jevon Osborne
Natalie Pemberton
Jan Shoemaker

Copy Editor
Kim Ledgerwood

Tauri Hagemann
Jay Kibble
Rachel Lauve
Katie Mathew
Maddie Ramsell
Ethan Rice
Ian Roesler
Haley Stevens
Isabel Vazquez-Rowe

Website Developer/Consultant
Rachel Hartley-Smith

Editorial Board

Kim Barnes
Madeleine Blais
Leon Dash
David James Duncan

Ashley C. Ford
Sydney Lea
Chris Offutt
Leila Philip

Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs
Norman Sims
Cheryl Strayed