The Men (and Women) in the Iron (Editorial) Mask

Jameelah Lang

Oct 03, 2011

People hide themselves in a lot of different ways. Masks are really popular. Also, holes. Closets, forests. Sometimes people hide because they are in danger. Other times, for fun, an exciting way to surprise your friends! Halloween is another good excuse. Sometimes people hide themselves on accident. What do you mean? you might ask. Well, sometimes people who work really hard hide, because they are behind-the-scenes people. They lock themselves in tiny rooms without sunlight or proper nourishment. They start to look weird and sometimes forget how to interact with others. They don't always get their props. Who are these people, you might ask? Writers. But more specifically, the Very-Talented-Writers-Who-Bring-You-New-Issues-of-Gulf-Coast-Magazine-Twice-a-Year. As for these behind-the-scenes People-of-Gulf-Coast: some of them are mothers, some of them are husbands, some of them just really want to watch some sports and have a cold brewskie. All of them love you and devote their time and energy to getting you what you want. Well, that is if what you want is a really awesome literary magazine. So here's to them, those people! They are really good at what they do! Let's give them their props! Let me share with you some wonderful fiction published by Gulf Coast editors, past and present. Here also are some stellar literary magazines that publish these people, and these magazines are also probably full of really wonderful hardworking people. I would bet on it. "The Hottest Part of the Summer" by Laurie Cedilnik (former Editor), in Colorado Review (Fall 2010) In life, things that seem to be about one thing often turn out to be about something totally different. The Lion King, for instance. Sex. Christmas. "The Hottest Part of Summer" is a story about one family's battle over a birthday party and their backyard pool. Laurie tells you very little in this piece upfront; she lets the characters act and speak for themselves, and their true motives and emotions are revealed in this subtle, specific way--through attention to detail. Laurie's hand, as a writer, is steady and focused, and she exercises a high level of control over the story. It is a story about power, desire, and fear. But more than that, Laurie's story is about what lies beneath the surface (of the pool, of the family), and the answer is not a scary shark or an anaconda: it's questions of who we are and why we act the way we do. "How Someone Can Not Recognize You" by Aja Gabel (Assistant Editor in Fiction), in New Ohio Review (Issue 6) Do you like to read good writing? Do you sometimes wonder about Korean masseurs? Do you like to feel your feelings? Yeah, me too. "How Someone Can Not Recognize You" will make you feel something, which is what I want most out of good fiction. Even more than that, it will make you feel more than one thing at the same time, which is even better, and even harder to pull off. Aja will make you feel sadness, relief, loss, and hope in this beautiful story about a girl grieving her father's death. Aja here places two narrative threads side by side and asks us to consider their intersections and divergences: the girl's story, and the story of Korean masseurs losing their jobs halfway around the world. The result is explosive, in the sense that each story amplifies the other, and asks us to reconsider what we know (and what we do not) about what happens when we lose things we love. "The White Guy's Guide to Marrying a Black Woman" by Ed Porter (Fiction Editor), forthcoming from Barrelhouse Magazine I read this story very late one night. I was up working. I had worked so long that words did not make sense. They looked like mah mah blahblah my feelings bah. Then, I read this story. "The White Guy's Guide" has beautiful attention to the sentence and to structure (choose-your-adventure-esque scenarios; sharp, loaded language). But, the most remarkable thing about this story is that it walks a fine line between humor and sadness, and Ed reveals that you often can't have one without the other. Ed uses humor as an "in" to the complicated world of loss, self-doubt, the fear of being left behind, and the result is a multi-layered, multi-voiced telling. Ed wrote to me, "whenever I find myself compulsively making jokes, it's a good bet that I'm on to something I'm afraid of, i.e., something worth writing about." BONUS: Don't want to wait to read the literary styling of Ed Porter? Here's another wonderful story in another wonderful journal: "Cameron Diaz and I are in Love" in Booth Magazine (July 2010) But that is not it! There are a lot of good stories by Gulf Coast People. Tons, in fact. I have simply run out of space. However, you can check them (and the literary magazines who publish them) out for yourselves! Where? you might ask. Well, their names are listed over yonder, to your left, under "About." Give them their props! They love you so! Props all around!