Ah, the holidays: a time brimming with food, family, and good fortune. Or, if you are a writer (apparently), a time drunk with divorce, destruction, and emotional devastation. We jest (sort of), but we were surprised to note the depth of darkness that ran through the many submissions we received for this theme call. We read this as the result of the way expectation and hope can rub so ruefully against reality. Sylvia Plath captured this beautifully in “The Bell Jar”: I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised but never came to pass. Who are we to argue? To help wash that disenchantment down, however, we bring to your holiday table electric storytelling, strong voices, and some exciting new writers.
For our fiction line-up, we start with Diana Clarke’s “The Great New Zealand Narrative Which Also Happens to be a Musing on My Parents’ Holiday Divorce,” and Michael Monson’s “The Growth of Hearts and Other Lies.” These two marvelous stories deal with the uncertainty of emotions during divorce, one from the daughter’s perspective and one from the father’s perspective. “Friday Night Dinner” by Laurie Jacobs was a story initially submitted to our Change issue but we decided to save it until now since the piece better suits our Holiday issue—we’ve grown to love it even more after letting it steep on the burner.
Our creative nonfiction offerings this month include Wendy Fontaine’s tongue-in-cheek-titled essay “The Most Wonderful Time”, a brilliant narrative peeling through the layers of family secrets and hardships during the holiday season. Her voice is lush, intimate, masterful, and cuts sharply, whereas the narrator in our second nonfiction piece in this collection gives us the feeling of listening to her story with our feet propped up in front of a fireplace. So we leave you there, ending on a little something bright with Luisa Reyes’s “Santa’s Wish List”, which illuminates the human good that is possible during the holiday season, leaving us assured that there is still such a thing as Christmas magic, even if it comes in the form of a mall Santa.
So pour some eggnog (and spike it with some bourbon, if you so chose), and get ready for the holidays. They arrive every year, whether we want them to or not, and we hope our digital issue brings you just the right amount and kind of joy and thankfulness you need.
When we first planned out our themes for Windmill’s monthly digital issues, our editorial team knew the October theme had to be ghost stories. And while we knew we wanted ghost stories that would send chills up our spines, we also wanted pieces about things that haunt us, about unearthing what we normally keep buried.
This month, we offer you some twists on the good old campfire story. For fiction, we have Hunter Liguore’s “The Headstone of Hezikiah Bronson,” a story steeped in historical fiction told from the point of view of a headstone, and Robin Vigfusson’s “Housework,” a strange and unsettling tale of two sisters who use dreams as a way to communicate after one’s death. Our third fiction selection—Mark Brazaitis’s spookily funny psychological thriller, “Killer Cat”—was voted the story most likely to keep us up at night.
Our creative nonfiction offerings include two shorts by the fabulous Sean Prentiss—”Ghost Moose” and “A Night Song to Little Brown Bats”—both of which act as eerie elegies to vanishing creatures. Meanwhile, Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s essay “Caldera” focuses on the ghosts of war, and the way in which they can be passed along from person to person like a possession or a contagion.
A good ghost story is one that you can tell around a campfire, but a really great ghost story haunts the reader beyond the page. We offer you the following six tales; read on, if you dare…
The Windmill Team
We are so excited to share our very first digital issue with you! Our theme for September is Change; as kids, we always loved the way a new school year felt like it came with the possibility of becoming a new person, as if a new three-ring binder promised we’d fulfill our potential as an organized person, or a new school outfit could change our fortune (or, at the very least, our lunch table). As adults the idea of change isn’t as simplistic anymore, but can still happen lightning fast, though not always with happy—or intended—consequences.
For our premiere digital issue, we were gloriously swamped with amazing stories about change. The four we present to you complete our September issue, but so many more made us think deeply, argue over the conference table about what makes strong narrative, and take pause to be grateful that so many writers—so many incredibly talented writers!—shared their work with Windmill.
All four selections deal with change of some kind, and we wanted to take this opportunity to point out the amazing group of writers we are highlighting. Emma Bolden (“To Mourn Excessively”) is an incredibly accomplished poet whose nonfiction stopped us in our tracks; she is the Senior Reviews Editor at Tupelo Quarterly and received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Travis Klempan (“Trees Everywhere”) is a veteran who received his BS in English from the Naval Academy and his MFA from the Jack Kerouac School in Boulder. Anita Zachary (“Moochy”) is a mother of four from Southern California and recently graduated from San Diego State University’s MFA Program—her short story, Moochy, has already won the title of Fan Favorite. And finally, we have Karen Chen (“Glasses”), a high school student from New York City, who also enjoys fencing (!). As disparate as the writers on this list may be, they all share one thing: their work has a history of being supported by literary magazines.
As a new literary magazine, we at Windmill wanted this first digital issue to reflect the work and writers for which we hope to become known. We couldn’t have created a more perfect group if we tried. We have a mix of geography, gender, ethnicity, and writing experience; some of our writers are working on or have published books, while others are just starting their writing life.
We hope to continue to give space to emerging and accomplished voices and to run stories and essays that make us uncomfortable and ask difficult questions, give us beauty and complexity, and always, always focus on strong narrative. Thank you for trusting us.
With such hope,