January 24, 2010
Santa Fe, New Mexico
From: Adam Perry
To: Stays Magazine Contributors & Readers
In realizing a vision for a journal of true stories and a sort of role model for the kind of writers I wish to include, I instantly thought of one young woman’s spirit and strength, her unwavering ability to share her experiences and feverishly grow into a remarkable person and writer as she habitually admits what she doesn’t know.
Over my two years as a student at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder – founded by Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and William S. Burroughs in the early 1970s – none of my peers inspired or impressed me more than Joyce Joseph, who I met the day I arrived from San Francisco. A smart young African American woman from Denver who is untainted by and uninterested in the pretense, boot-licking and ladder-climbing of either modern academia or the modern cronyism-heavy world of approaching writing as career, Joyce alternates between raucously writing what she knows and softly indulging in deep fantasy-prose that is equal parts Toni Morrison and Henry Dumas.
Dozens of the fledging writers I met in Colorado before graduating from Naropa had read and traveled far more widely than Joyce, but in many cases they had done so in order to create an image of themselves and a license to criticize and compare others. Conversely, Joyce spoke only from experience during class and kept mostly quiet during the name-tossing that sometimes passes for literary discussion at American universities. However, unlike other Naropa classmates who hadn’t been exposed to classic or progressive literature as youths and as formative adults were just being introduced to essential 20th Century greats like William Baldwin or Henry Miller, Joyce did not stare into the center of the classroom with her arms crossed. Silently, she would jot down the countless names of authors and books she took notice of; weeks later, having utilized her job at the Allen Ginsberg Library at Naropa’s Arapahoe Campus, Joyce invariably become more profoundly familiar with the writers and works she found interesting than, in general, those who turned her on to them.
In snowy Santa Fe recently, I’ve recalled Joyce’s noteworthy integrity while reading several popular American ‘zines that profess a faithfulness to ostensibly truth-based prose centered on candid storytelling and essays but only include one or two honest, illuminating and captivating tales from talented and sincere contributors. Mostly, these magazines display (and thus support) writing that intends to shock, shallowly arouse and callously entertain readers while boosting the egos and self-reflections of the writers they accept.
What I’m interested in sharing with readers via Stays – an online journal that will become a quarterly print magazine once necessary funds are raised – is writing about real moments, events, experiences, transitions, trips and realizations that have been instrumental in helping people become who they are and moving them closer to who they might someday be. Essentially, I want contributors to think of something that happened in their lives that hurt them, healed them, or just helped them feel alive. Whether these stories touch upon the triumphant or the embarrassing is not what matters. I’ll welcome everything from the no-holds-barred debauchery of Charles Bukowski’s barroom and menial labor escapades to Rebecca Brown’s intellect-laden juxtapositions of personal demons and musical heroes. Most important is that contributors remember a scene or a time in their lives and present it to Stays’ readers with no obstructions, caveats or regrets.
In Jim Henson’s endearingly twisted 80’s puppet movie The Dark Crystal, one Gelfling asks another “What is writing?” and receives the reply “Words that stay.” Via submissions from writers who are adept at relaying experiences in a way readers can never forget, I will begin to share approximately one story a day at the Stays website. I will work with monthly themes (the first, for February 2010, is “Winter’s Love and Loss”) and then (with the eventual print version of Stays) quarterly themes. For now, my only requirements are that the stories are between 500 and 2,000 words; have not appeared elsewhere; and are true to the best of the contributors’ knowledge.
In conclusion, I can think of no better source for the official Stays mission statement than Barry Lopez’s 1998 book of essays About This Life, in which he wrote:
“I believe in all human societies there is a desire to love and be loved, to experience the full fierceness of human emotion, and to make a measure of the sacred part of one’s life. Wherever I’ve traveled – Kenya, Chile, Australia, Japan – I’ve found that the most dependable way to preserve these possibilities is to be reminded of them in stories. Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns, we might re-imagine our lives. It is through story that we embrace the great breadth of memory, that we can distinguish what is true, and that we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us.”
“As long as it took for me to see that a writer’s voice had to grow out of his own knowledge and desire, that it could not rise legitimately out of the privilege of race or gender or social rank, so did it take time to grasp the depth of cruelty inflicted upon all of us the moment voices are silenced, when for prejudicial reasons people are told their stories are not valuable, not useful.”
Thank you, and please send any submissions and/or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org