Editor's Notes 20.2

By Joe Mackall

March 20, 2019

Editor's Notes 20.2

When my children turned twenty-one, I wrote each of them a letter. The content was meant for them only. All three shed tears, as did I. I knew that although my children, two daughters and a son, were still mine and, of course, always would be, they were entering the world as adults; and forevermore I would have to share them with the world in a way that left me excited and proud, but also anxious and wary. This moment in the life of River Teeth feels a bit like that. In the fall of this year, River Teeth will be twenty years old. We couldn’t wait until it turned twenty-one to write this letter.

Much has changed in the world and in our lives in the twenty years River Teeth has been alive. The journal first came out nearly two years before 9/11, five before our country’s invasion of Iraq, six years before Katrina, nine years before the housing crisis and the ensuing recession, a full seventeen years before the November 2016 election. The personal lives of the journal’s two founding editors have also changed. Both Dan and I are retired now. We’ve been blessed with five granddaughters between us. We no longer teach full-time, but we burn with the fire to find the best essays, memoir, and literary journalism out there, and to keep publishing what we believe to be the finest nonfiction in the country. But we know it’s time for a change.

Combined, we’ve dedicated over fifty years to Ashland University. We loved our time there, and we remain proud of our many students. We’re grateful to the university that helped us get the journal going and that supported us for twenty years. However, now that Dan and I will no longer be there, we had to find our journal a new home. We decided we had to share the journal with the world in a new way, one that makes us a bit anxious and wary, but mainly excited and proud.

Dan and I have always said that the best thing about founding and editing River Teeth has been all the writers we’ve met, all the fine people we’ve come to know, all the friends we’ve made. We seemed to have entered a community of writers that was somehow out there waiting to welcome us like the best of family. Our River Teeth friends come from around the world. We consider ourselves lucky indeed to have them in our lives. We have also lost friends we had come to love. We lost our dear friends Judith Kitchen, Nancy Mairs, and Brian Doyle. Our lives were enriched immeasurably by our friendship with these fine writers and wonderful people, and their soulful and lyrical work graced the pages of our journal and made it shine. These friendships might never have happened without River Teeth.

We now believe the truest way to pay back this journal that has given us so much is to ensure its longevity, to keep it great, but to allow younger, immeasurably talented writer friends to help us take River Teeth to the next level of greatness. Jill Christman and Mark Neely entered our lives thanks to our journal. Along with being wonderful and accomplished writers, they’re also amazingly generous teachers, dear friends, and two of the finest damn folks you’ll meet. Jill and Mark have taught together in the English Department at Ball State University for eighteen years, where they’ve helped to build a large, thriving creative writing program with over 150 majors and a first-rate master’s program.

Jill is an amazing nonfiction writer--we met her when she honored us with a submission we published nearly fifteen years ago. She is the author of two memoirs, Darkroom: A Family Exposure (winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Prize for Creative Nonfiction) and Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood, as well as essays in magazines such as Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, True Story, and of course, River Teeth. Mark is an accomplished poet with two books, Beasts of the Hill and Dirty Bomb, published by the prestigious Oberlin College Press. His awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and the FIELD Poetry Prize, and he developed the literary editing track at Ball State.

We approached Jill and Mark because we knew they would be terrific stewards of our journal, caretakers of our vision, with their own ideas to make a great journal greater. Although Dan and I will still be active and decision-making editors, Jill and Mark will not only supervise and manage the journal’s production but will also solicit writers they love and help us choose the twelve or so pieces in each issue. They intend to use the journal in classroom laboratory settings for the welfare and practical education of their students. They have innovative plans for marketing and design that, frankly, exist beyond the abilities of the journal’s founding editors. Dan and I value and trust Jill and Mark probably more than is decent to say.

The fall of 2019 will be the first official issue brought out with Ball State University. The very top of our masthead will not change. Dan and I are not yet willing or even inclined to shuffle off anywhere. But we are more than excited to welcome Jill and Mark into the core of River Teeth.

We have no doubt they’ll make us better. We have no doubt the best years of River Teeth are ahead of us.

We’d also like to announce this year’s winner of the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Contest. This year’s judge, Phillip Lopate, chose Joan Frank’s wonderful essay collection Try to Get Lost: Essays on Travel and Place. The book will be published by the University of New Mexico Press in spring of 2020.

Thanks for reading.



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