Editor’s Note

Dwelling in Confidence

During the final week of editing for this issue I, along with a few of my colleagues, attended the AWP Annual Conference & Book Fair in Seattle. It was the first time in four years I had been back to that yearly rite of literary communion and promotion, and I was pleased, if still a little nervous, to see that the crowds and camaraderie had returned to prepandemic levels—for better or worse, as I remastered the art of snaking through a crowded party. (Strange to say, but it wasn’t until I began the litany of “Excuse me, pardon me,” as I politely shouldered my way forward, that I realized how much I missed those small rituals of gathering in literary community, even as I remain wary of contagion.) One afternoon, back in my hotel room, seeking the refuge of work after the din and crush of the bookfair, I reread Daphne Kalotay’s “Celebrate Every Win: How Savoring One Victory Can Fuel Your Next”, part of this issue’s special section on writing contests and a reminder to avoid hiding your accomplishments from yourself. “There are many instances in which one’s self-confidence and gentle reminders of one’s worth do have an effect,” she writes. “Sometimes the effect is simply a renewed energy to keep writing—to keep sitting in the chair, doing the work. Sometimes the effect is to cause someone to notice you, notice your work, or perhaps reconsider it, rather than dismiss it.” There in the carnival atmosphere of the conference, this resonated with me. First, it made me think of the people I know who seemingly take great pains to craft the narrative of their accomplishments. Note that I claim to know them, as one cannot help but do, given their stories; I’ve never been particularly close to them, perhaps because there is something about spending so much time tallying one’s achievements that is contrary to my roots in the Midwestern soil of my upbringing, which cultivated many unspoken truths, one of them being: Farmers don’t brag. Kathleen Melin, who wrote “Radiant Fog: One Writer’s Life in Rural America”, will likely agree with me. But more significant, Kalotay’s words reminded me of the writers I passed in the conference halls who were sitting alone, notebooks in their laps, or looking out onto the scene with a serene yet serious expression—writers at work. To those writers I want to say, I see you. Your quiet dedication speaks volumes. Don’t hide what you’re doing—it’s important.