The Strange Beating Heart of the Thing

Ryan W. Murphy, Nonfiction Editor

Ryan W. Murphy, Nonfiction Editor

I was a reader long before I became a writer. Diving into a book an entire pile of books—ok my house is full of books—has always been the animating factor in my life. Whether I’m reading poetry, a history of some moment far off in time and place, or the careful exploration of a character, the best writing has the power to set the world still for a time and engross its reader in its own beautiful particularities. As the new Nonfiction Editor of Blue Mesa Review, I want to read submissions that ground me in the reality of your story and make me forget about my own.

The best nonfiction submissions will have moments that shine a brilliant gleam of light from an angle I’ve never experienced. Nonfiction provides a pathway into this that no other genre can. Each moment layers the strange particularities of this world on top of themselves. The earthly is made unearthly. This defamiliarization has the same effect on me that a strange noise might have on a dog. My head tips to the side, all life pauses around me, and then I can return to the world—some new experience in hand, shaping how I read my own life. I want to read your submissions that have this power to change the way our readers see the world.

Content, however, is not the only place where I love to see nonfiction push into new territory. I am a sucker for formal experimentation. The prose block is a solid shape. It’s served writing well for centuries and no doubt will for centuries to come. But there are so many possibilities to write into new forms, new shapes. I do not simply want writing to ask questions about its subject matter. I want it to seriously contemplate the way that its structure engages with that subject. Don’t just ask yourself “What do I want to say?” Ask how your piece wants to be said. Can your essay take the form of a furnace repair manual? Could you write lyrical prose that borrows its shape from that interminable stretch of paper at the bottom of a certain unnamed pharmacy’s receipt? Be ambitious, challenge my understanding of what an essay can be, can look like, can do. I want to read the forms that I cannot imagine as I sit here writing this.

I don’t want to just read your strange heart, I want to understand it.

Life is far too short for the safety and detachment that irony gives us. Write toward your strangeness, write toward your unique experience of the world. Wherever that writing leads you, I can’t wait to read your work.

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Ryan Murphy