River Teeth Print Journal

Editor’s Notes 13.2

Spring 2012

By Joe Mackall


In the third or fourth year of River Teeth’s existence, a former undergraduate English professor of mine submitted an essay to us. As I tore open the envelope, I fantasized about how many nasty ways I could reject this guy. I generally loved my undergraduate experience in English, mainly because of the books I read, but also the professors who seemed to love literature and language as much as I did. They lived and breathed it. This one guy, however, did not; at least I never saw evidence of it. He was a pompous ass who favored a few people in class, people who agreed with his narrow New Criticism and, more importantly, with him.

Before I read a word of the essay, however, I began to worry: What if I love the essay? What if, like so many writers, his writerly ethos surpassed his personal one? I knew what I had to do. If I loved it, I’d have to publish the piece. That’s as basic as it gets around here. If we love a piece of nonfiction, we publish it, whether it’s written by an ass from the past or a friend sitting next to us. I soon rationalized that I’d claim victory whether we published the essay or not. By accepting his essay I was finally able to pass judgment on my old prof and graciously grant him access to our esteemed publication. By rejecting him, well that might feel pretty good too. But we read to love and publish, not to reject.

That’s how we do things around the offices of River Teeth. We’re readers and writers first, and then we’re editors. We’re really all about falling in love. Falling in love with a piece means we have to have it. That’s it.

All of this is leading up to an explanation of this issue. Not that anybody else will notice, but in this issue we’ve published friends, colleagues, staff, former contributors—even writers we just published in the last two issues!—and we don’t give a damn and we don’t apologize. While listening to readings at Ashland University’s MFA reading, for example, in which Dan and I teach, I listened to unpublished pieces by our faculty. After the readings, with my heart beating with the fresh, dizzy love of a word-flushed reader, I approached these writers and asked if we could publish their work. I know it’s not cool to publish the work of friends and colleagues, but what’s a reader to do? I simply could not sit idly by and watch these wondrous little works of art find homes in other journals. I had to have them. (I’m like a nine-year-old that way.) We could hate your guts and publish your memoir. We’re that simple. Or at least I am.

We’re also publishing the work of two former students in this issue. In our defense, we at least waited until a single second after soldier and doctor, Jon Kerstetter, graduated from our low-residency MFA program. The work of Sarah Wells, a former undergraduate student of ours, who’s now the managing editor of River Teeth and the administrator of our MFA program, is also in these pages. As she and I have done many times in the past, she wrote an essay and asked if I’d have time to read it and talk it over with her. As always, I said yes. We agreed to meet the following Wednesday afternoon. And then I read it. And then I read it again. Immediately I wanted to call Dan. That’s the bar we’ve set for ourselves. We desire those pieces that make us wish to pick up the phone and call each other in the middle of the night, (or at least as late as 9:59 p.m., because we’d both like to keep our wives happy). That’s how I felt when I read Sarah’s essay. I called Dan. He read and called me. We had to have it. I cancelled my appointment with Sarah and begged her to let us publish the piece in River Teeth.

Growing up in a lower working-class home where it often looked as if knowing people in the wider world guaranteed some an easy leg up, I grew up distrusting and hating anything smacking of nepotism. But please, what’s a reader to do. How much of a reader’s falling in love is rational? Guided by rules? Governed by commandments? We cannot operate that way.

Having said all of this, the same goes for friends and colleagues and family and staff. No matter how much we admire you, no matter how many times you’ve done us favors, had dinners over our house, helped push our cars out of the endless snows of an Ohio winter, if we don’t love the piece you submitted to us, we won’t publish your work.

And, just for the record, my former professor’s writing was equal to his teaching, so we rejected him.

Thank you to those who pre-ordered this issue of River Teeth to support the Wounded Warrior Project. The response was huge, and we are glad to have had the opportunity to partner with Jon Kerstetter on this initiative.

We’d like to congratulate the 2011 winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize, Mark Liebenow, for his manuscript, Mountains of Light: Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite available from the University of Nebraska Press March 2012.

We’d also like to announce the first ever River Teeth Nonfiction Conference to be held on Ashland University’s campus May 18-20. We’ll feature Robert Atwan, Hope Edelman, Bob Cowser, Ana Maria Spagna, Michelle Herman, Dinty Moore and others, including Dan and myself.

Thanks for reading.


< Return to Issue 13.2

Read Contributors’ Notes for Issue 13.2 >

More Print Issues

Two koi fish swimming in dark water

Issue 25.1

Featuring the writing of Elizabeth Miki Brina, Kit Carlson, Brooke Champagne, Henrietta Goodman, Megan Harlan, Sonya Huber, Laura Johnsrude, Shannon McCarthy, Tierney Oberhammer, Jon Parrish Peede, and Justin St. Germain.

Part of a slice of watermelon. Yum!

Issue 24.2

Featuring the writing of Greg Bottoms, Elizabeth Carls, Jim Daniels, Kathleen Driskell, Michael Down, Renata Golden, Diane Gottlieb, Sydney Lea, Ann Leamon, Leslie Jill Patterson, Julia Purks, Claudia F. Saleeby Savage, Layli Shirani, Jill Talbot, Melissa Akie Wiley.

RT 24.1 Cover

Issue 24.1

Featuring the writing of Nicholas Dighiera, Nicole Hamer, Jessica Kulynych, David McGlynn, Lilly U. Nguyen, Craig Reinbold, S. N. Rodriguez, Ellen Rogers, Ana Maria Spagna, Leslie Stonebraker, and Jessie van Eerden.

Tiger Cover for Issue 23.2

Issue 23.2

Featuring the writing of Constance Adler, N.D. Brown, Andre Dubus III, Sophie Ezzell, Suzanne Finney, Steven Harvey, Mary Milstead, Jefferson Slagle, Ira Sukrungruang, Alexandra Teague, and Kathryn Winograd.

Cover of RT 23.1, Whales Dancing

Issue 23.1

Featuring the writing of Desiree Cooper, Michael Garrigan, Tiffany Isaacs, Jessica Johnson, Aaron Landsman, Sarah Layden, Tyler Mills, Marion Peters Denard, and Jan Shoemaker.

Cover of RT 22.2: Flamingos

Issue 22.2

Featuring the writing of Greg Bottoms, James Brown, Marianne Jay Erhardt, Jessica Franken, Jason Goldsmith, Richard Goodman, Nicole Graev Lipson, Shamecca Harris, Rick Rees, Abigail Thomas, and Emily Waples.

RT 22.1 Cover, Salmon Fishing

Issue 22.1

Featuring the writing of Erin Block, Michael Dinkel, J. Malcolm Garcia, Megan Harlan, Susan Jackson Rodgers, Ren Jones, Emma Kaiser, Brenda Miller, Micah Perks, Molly Rideout, Allie Spikes, Jonathan Starke, and Julie Marie Wade.

Cover of RT 21.2, Desert Road

Issue 21.2

Featuring the writing of Tim Bascom, Wendy Bilen, James Ellenberger, Kelly Fordon, Camellia Freeman, Nicole Graev Lipson, Mary Grimm, Kelle Groom, Kevin Honold, Phillip Hurst, Rebecca McClanahan, and Liz Prato.

Cover of RT 21.1, Fire Season

Issue 21.1

Featuring the writing of Noah Davis, Nicholas Dighiera, Molly Gallentine, Susan H. Greenberg, Stephen D. Gutierrez, Sean Ironman, Lawrence Lenhart, Beth Ann Miller, Jan Shoemaker, Laurie Uttich, and Leonard Winograd.

River Teeth 20.2 Cover, Volcano

Issue 20.2

Featuring the writing of Elizabeth Miki Brina, Fleda Brown, Jeff Gundy, Rosanna N. Henderson, EmmaJean Holley, Anne McGrath, E.J. Myers, Sam Pickering, Evan Reibsome, Chris Siteman, J. David Stevens, Jill Talbot, and Rachel Weaver.

Scroll right to choose more past issues. >