As a former reporter and freelance magazine writer, I have long lamented the decline of many print publications I once admired, which now seem to favor “charticles,” sound bites, and page displays emphasizing graphics over content. Poets & Writers Magazine has bucked this trend, its articles becoming more thought-provoking and inspiring over the years. I appreciated Melissa Febos’s essay, “The Heart-Work: Writing About Trauma as a Subversive Act,” in the January/February 2017 issue. A few men immediately wrote off my memoir as “a woman’s book” because, in addition to examining the political and cultural climate of present-day Cuba, it deals with a romantic relationship. Another piece in the Inspiration Issue that spoke to me was Frank Bures’s essay, “Writing the Self: Some Thoughts on Words and Woe,” as I am now going through the aftermath of my dear friend’s suicide. I also applaud Poets & Writers Magazine’s focus in the past decade on writers of color. I hope you continue to tackle difficult and timely issues and to allow your writers the word counts to do so in depth.
Thank you for including Febos’s essay encouraging victims and trauma survivors to tell their stories without shame or reserve. Her analysis of our culture—that it would rather victims remain silent so that power can keep power—served as the biggest reason personally for me to share my story. The issue I’ve found is a lack of protection. I wrote a piece for the Atlantic last year, sharing a personal story that came from the intersection of trauma and disability. While I was prepared for argumentative and even rude comments as any regular Facebook user must be, the vitriol and even in-person attacks I received were initially too much. What should have been a milestone—finally finding the courage to get a small piece of my story into words and out there—became shrouded in further pain and fear. I stand with Febos and not only applaud the efforts of those who have been abused or experience trauma to make their voices heard but also seek to read these stories myself. I also think we need to be more careful; getting your story out there can be hard for logistical reasons, but it can be harder even after overcoming the hurdles of the publishing world. People who are writing narratives about victimization need to be connected with a support network that can help them deal with what might otherwise be blindside attacks from members of the general public who don’t take the time to understand or who are triggered themselves. Survivors need support for what they’ve gone through and also when they or their works are attacked. They’ve been through enough.
Never Give Up
I sincerely hope that “5 Over 50” (November/December 2016) will become an annual feature. After more than a decade as a subscriber to Poets & Writers Magazine, I had planned to not renew my subscription. Since my second child was born sixteen months ago, I have been unable to create the time and mind space to write. As one of the featured authors, Desiree Cooper, aptly put it, “Frustrated at the stingy moments left for me to write, I often very nearly stopped.” When I saw the line “5 Over 50” shining on the cover, I thought, “Finally! A reminder that there is creative life to live in the decades to come!” I snuck away from my two children this morning to read the feature and soon found myself with wet cheeks and a renewed sense of hope. I’m “only” thirty-eight, but I really believed my writing dreams were over. But, like Cooper said, “I couldn’t stay away for long.” This feature gave me the inspiration to return to my craft. It may be decades before I publish my first book, but when I do, I will have Poets & Writers Magazine to thank.