The top ten previously-published stories featured in this month’s issue were selected by me based on some criteria outlined here. I also wanted to give our incredible volunteer staff members the chance to give a shout out to his or her favorite story. Thanks to those who shared their picks:
Lisa Ahn, columnist
My favorite is My First Trip Truckin’ by Chris Cox, from August 2012. Chris has such a deft command of language, such great imagery; I felt as if I were on that crazy ride, right along with him.
Austin DeMarco, reader
This is a really tough question! I ended up sifting through back issues to see which essays stood out most to me. There are a lot of great ones that I passed over, but in the end, I settled on “The Outsider” by Fred Amram from the March 2012 issue. My favorite part of this piece is the way Amram uses learning to spell as a metaphor for learning to cope with his new life and integrate himself into a new culture. It’s such a powerful, tension-laced moment that I felt my skin crawl the first time I read it. Every time I recall this story, it evokes those same emotions, which I feel is the hallmark of any truly great and memorable work of art.
Pat Florio, reader
I want to remember something that stuck with me for this long, but there were so many good ones. I know it was a man who went back to visit his old house. Ah, Cory Fosco’s “The House that Built Me” (September 2011). I like reminiscing with the writer because most of my nonfiction writings have to do with remembering the way it used to be; the old house, my family, being a kid, living in Brooklyn.
Lori M. Myers, interviews editor
Gosh, there are so many. I loved several that were in the latest April 2013 issue, but if I have to choose one then I would pick Jane Hammons’ “Holy Tribunal” (July 2011). I enjoyed Hammons’ piece because both the stringent traditions of the Catholic Church and Hammons’ irreverence collide. We root for Hammond as she finds her strength and sees through the bureaucracy with humor. The reader is right alongside the writer as she journeys into the Diocese, not knowing what she will do or say next. Hammons’ attention to detail and her character descriptions are masterful.
Risa Nye, columnist
Wow, tough assignment! So many to choose from. But one that really stuck with me was The Outsider, by Fred Amram (March 2012). He skillfully captured the experience of a young boy grappling with the transition from his past to his present–and even from last year’s teacher to this year’s. It’s very difficult, as an adult writer, to create the childhood voice in a way that sounds genuine and honest. Amram did this wonderfully, creating a believable world that is at once scary and threatening and hopeful. We see through young Fred’s eyes what that world felt like, and we experience it with him in this moving piece. This is a perfect example of how an excellent writer can tell a story full of tension and heartbreak with simplicity and elegance.
Robert Steinpreis, copy editor
My favorite piece of this year has been Demanding This by Jessica Bryant Klagmann (February 2013). Just the sheer amount of detail, and how she pulls the reader right into the piece, as if we are sitting across from her while she tells it, was fantastic. I was very pleased to have been one of the editors for the piece.
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Thanks again to our volunteer readers who help select these stories; it’s a lot of work to sift through a jam-packed queue, mining for gems! And thanks, also, to our copy editors for helping polish these gems. And to our columnists and section editors for contributing to each issue and fulfilling the “educate” part of our mission! We’re grateful for our staff!