Open The Book
“Our human books have many different chapters....” That’s a quote from “The Human Library’s Many Books” (page 12), a terrific piece of journalism by Amanda Calderon about a unique program that was started by an organization in Denmark fourteen years ago and has since spread to the United States, recently finding an audience at a library in upstate New York. The woman who said those words, Rebecca Fuss of the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, was referring to the individuals who volunteered to share their perspectives with visitors who signed up to listen to them in thirty-minute intervals. It’s one of those simple ideas—to promote dialogue and understanding through storytelling—that has the potential to change a person’s outlook. And that is an incredibly powerful and important thing indeed.
Fuss’s quote is also the perfect way to think about the articles in this and every issue of the magazine. In these pages we focus not only on the books that we have written and published (or those we hope to), but also, and perhaps more important, that which breathes life into those books: the simple miracle of inspiration, the lifelong practice of writing, and the business of smart publishing. All these things start with the vim and vigor of real, flesh-and-blood people. You may not agree with their viewpoints and you may not even respond to their work, but it’s important to remember that this is an industry, a community, composed of real people trying to do their best work. Flip through these pages and you’ll see not only the products of years of hard work, such as Julene Bair’s new memoir (29), Willie Perdomo’s new poetry collection (40), and Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon’s new anthology of birth stories (83), but also the very real passion and, yes, occasional pain endured by writers such as Maria Mutch (23), Roxane Gay (34), and David Tomas Martinez (77). If we take the time to listen to their stories, we just may learn something about ourselves and our world.
As we compiled the list of free contests in our special section (59), we asked people at a number of the sponsoring organizations how and why, when so many contests charge entry fees, they’ve chosen to keep theirs free. Many mentioned the fact that their prizes are funded through endowments or other financial means, but all made a point of saying they were following a mission to support the work of writers. As someone who works for an organization that shares that mission, I hope you find in these pages something of real, lasting value.