The Best of the Netis an awards-based anthology designed to grant a platform to a diverse and growing collection of writers and publishers who are building an online literary landscape that seeks to break free of traditional publishing. This space has been created to bring greater respect to the continually expanding world of exceptional digital publishing.
The Best of the Net Anthology began in 2006, a project created by Sundress Publications (with special thanks to founding editor Erin Elizabeth Smith), to gather communities of online literary magazines, journals, and individuals that do the work of creating our digital literary landscape. We believe this effort is integral in decentering the literary canon as well as promoting and amplifying voices that are imperative to good literature, responsible culture, and the understanding of today’s social climate. We cherish these writers and publishers and hold digital publishing in high regards as a medium that creates access to a greater array of voices than the traditional publishing climate has allowed.
What initially drew me 2 ‘Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer’ was the confident narrative voice. I felt at once that I was in the hands of a complicated storyteller …that understands how necessary it is 2 consider the complexity of the human condition w/o relying on E-Z answers.
The voice is curious yet anguished with a great amount of humor and all of this together deepens the insights the writer gains about place and family, especially in the nuanced ways in which the parents and sisters are balanced with regards to the new suburban home.
In the end, however, what drew me to this essay out of all the very self-assured and talented writers I was lucky enough to read for The Barnhill Prize was the impressionistic style of “Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer.”
Where the situation of the essay—a Catholic family moves from Brooklyn to a Long Island suburb called Deer Park—is simple enough, the subterranean story of longing and economic advancement, the story of tradition and generational shifts, is written with compelling subtlety.
4 Generations of Black Hair Matters explores the changing hairstyles of four generations of Black women, and beautifully exemplifies what the personal essay can do. It’s both intimate and insightful.
By writing about her own life with nuance, intimacy, and specificity, Smith illuminates truths about American culture and history, and about race, gender, and class.
From the first scene, as the narrator considers “detangling” her granddaughter’s “springy hair coils,” I knew I was in confident, skilled hands.
Whether mining her mem0ries of her mother wrking over her hair w/ a hot comb or getting her first natural @ a barber shop in Chicago, or keenly examining why genrations of Black women embraced or rejectd particular hairstyles, the narrator of this essay is smart, supple, & funny.
I was absolutely drawn in by the narrator’s voice, and by the precise, nimble prose. 4 Generations of Black Hair Matters is a personal, perceptive essay that explores Black women’s hairstyles as powerful expressions of identity, beauty, and culture.
How to Make Jeweled Rice (Shirin Polo) @writergirl judged by Mike Smith
“How to Make Jeweled Rice (Shirin Polo),” like a lot of great lyric essays, recognizes alteration—of time and place, of voice, of perspective and language—as a dynamic generator of rhythm.
The steps of the recipe for Shirin Polo, handed down to the writer from her mother, anchors poignant childhood scenes of growing up in the 1960s as the child of Iranian immigrants in Milwaukee to an extended scene of visiting “Tehrangeles” as an adult.
The essay moves between the steps of the recipe to memories of childhood in which the writer comes to terms with the decision to assimilate into American culture.
From the problematizing of the popularization of rice in the United States—through a brief history of Uncle Ben’s, which successfully “stirred the pot” in the second half of the 20th Century—
—to an episode of people-watching on Rodeo Drive, there is a wry, winking humor at work throughout this essay, which grounds us through the movement between times and places as much as it charms.
Growing the Longridge Review family of writers, editors, readers, and artists is a perpetual joy, and it is truly with joy that we welcome Crystal Good as a 2022 reader for The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. CG and I have been friends for 20 years. We helped build Create WV together, walked runways together (I’m telling you, even I can’t believe that happened…..), earned our MFAs together, and still check in with one another from time to time to say, “Check me on this, did that crazy thing actually occur?” The answer is invariably yes, it did.
It’s a privilege to have her onboard to help read for the #BarnhillPrize this year. Check her out, and consider submitting your work through July 31. We use Submittable, CLICK HERE.
Crystal Good is the publisher of BLACK BY GOD | The West Virginian, an emerging news and storytelling organization centering Black voices from the Mountain State; the name is a riff on the colloquial phrase West ‘by God’ Virginia that claims a unique place in central Appalachia. Tweet at her here: @cgoodwoman
If you’re new here: In 2010, a little idea for sharing essays on childhood got a big boost when Anne Clinard Barnhill submitted “Winter Solstice” to an unknown fellow West Virginian. I wanted to pursue the idea there is a lot to say about how our early experiences shape the world. Anne later sent “Melungeons and Mystery,” as well as “Staying.” It is because of Anne’s belief in Essays on a West Virginia Childhood that the project became something so much bigger, an online literary journal that publishes writers from coast to coast in the USA, and beyond.
We published Cascio’s essay, Kid, in Issue 12 in the Fall of 2018; speaking about both his writing and his visual art, he says each piece he creates is “a recorded haunting.” I know I’ve never stopped thinking about Kid, so he must be right. Of Cascio’s latest collection Tent City (Alien Buddha Press), one reviewer writes this:
Christopher Cascio notices everything — about neighbor’s dogs, a wrestling match, fathers and sons, a rain-drowned house. Under his inspection the details of living burgeon into major themes, so quietly the oncoming explosions barely register. And then, boom. Call these beautiful, deftly-crafted pieces short stories, small bejeweled things. But they are the size of the world.
RR’s word choice has my attention, because some of it is actually quite far away from words that come to me at first: beautiful, bejeweled. Other words ring true for me: dogs, wrestling, drowned, explosions.
The fusion is in Cascio’s eye for the beauty and value of difficult, superficially ugly truths. He is a master of unveiled views into unpleasant subjects that allow us as readers to “get past” the roadblocks that a less-skilled writer can’t avoid. Stabbings, picking fights, heart attacks, watching a home fall apart, finding the strength not to end your life even when it would make the pain go away…….I have this flashback to the end of A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean:
When I finished talking to my father, he asked, “Is there anything else you can tell me?”
Finally, I said, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.”
He almost reached the door and then turned back for reassurance. “Are you sure that the bones of his hand were broken? he asked. I repeated, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.” “In which hand?” he asked. “In his right hand,” I answered.
Maclean and Cascio are very different writers, but they share the same gift, the capacity to look through the outward ugliness of life to the core beauty that lies within. People can do and say and suffer some monstrous things that are not “the things” themselves. You’ll want this unique collection on your summer reading list! TENT CITY
The Spring issue is live, and the #BarnhillPrize is open. Life is good!
Catherine Con is back with another lush mystery-tinged narrative; this time her words bring us into a sensuous, dream-like meditation on wild mangoes. Brad Gibault leverages both humor and Greek mythology to explore his relationship with his school bus driver, Pat. Mark Lucius brings us back to witness how, at 10 years old, he faced more grown-up ethical decisions than have some adults and changed the athletic resumes of more than one person. Beverley Stevens sets a place for us at her grandmother’s formal dining table. Marianne Worthington uses her poet’s heart perspective on memories of her mother, angels, ghosts, and more.
And Jamie Miller with her art — well, you know how I feel about that.
For editors, rejection is often a gut-level process: they’ve edited this journal for 5, 10, 15 years; they know instinctively if a piece doesn’t fit. For writers, rejection sucks. No matter how much we know that rejection is not feedback, we take it to heart. Question our worth. Wonder if we’ll ever write anything publishable. Rejection’s sting is the price we pay for the occasional, glorious feeling of acceptance—that we can’t predict or control.
But we can control our work. Often, a piece that’s been rejected multiple times has an identifiable problem. Take a look at your orphan essay, book or pitch. One of these issues might apply:
You’re submitting to the wrong outlet. The lowest bar to clear. Editor after editor has told me that half—half!—of what they receive is “wrong.” Not necessarily poorly written, but sent to the wrong place. A sweet personal essay sent…
The stereotypes of feral, uncivilized toothless hillbillies not willing to pull themselves out of poverty by their bootstraps are not always true.
I go barefoot a lot, but I only know one person missing teeth, and she lost hers in a mosh pit at a punk rock show. The coal mines owned my grandfather at the age of fourteen. He never learned to read and died of black lung. My mom has mental illness and dependency issues. My dad was rarely around and I remember him setting fire to his hat once and telling me he was doing magic tricks while chugging moonshine. My grandmother helped raise me. She had an eighth grade education, but was the smartest woman I’ve ever known.
I grew up in a hollow that runs about ten miles. In those ten miles, there were two coal mines and at least six churches. Everything was always covered in coal soot so the trailer I lived in with my mother and sister was always black and dirty. That is why the trailers in my paintings are opera pink. My childhood was a stereotypical “Appalachian” narrative–poverty, dependency, mental illness, abuse. It always seemed so loud in our home, even when it was quiet. I always wore headphones and listened to mixtapes. It was the only time I could hear myself and have clear thoughts despite the chaos going on around me. I took solace in music and still do.
I always said I would leave West Virginia. I even to this day say it. It’s a very love/hate relationship. I could leave at any time, but I stay to fight, to make it a better place, and to be the voice sometimes for those who cannot speak. I often say it’s like I have Stockholm Syndrome. West Virginia is not an easy place to live. It’s not an easy place to make it, and it’s also somewhat easy to fall into a state of just existing, due to politics and the extraction of our wealth. Big Coal and Big Pharma are the rulers of a land that is home to the most hardworking, magical, complex humans you will meet anywhere. I stay for those folks and these mountains that cast spells. No one who isn’t from Appalachia will ever understand.
Telling stories–our stories–is a way to connect
I always love the underdog, the person who lives in that dirty coal trailer, but knows that they don’t have to accept that as the future. I love the storytellers who surprise you with their stories of resilience and take what you think you know about us and turn it upside down. I love old things that hold memories–cast off items, misfit broken dolls and toys. I love ghosts and daydreams. I love little towns and hollers in the country, porch stories, and kids who love punk rock because they believe it will save them.
I am a product of the West Virginia stereotype but mine is a complicated story of heritage, history, and pride. It is granny witches, and the spells the mountains have cast on me that make me stay and use my art as a tool to fight.
In my recent work, I incorporate layers of paint, symbolism, and folklore to portray the destruction of my mountain home. I invite the viewer in by using a bright color palette and childlike critters to create what seems like a beautiful safe space only upon further examination noticing the darkness. The mountains are bandaged; big coal owns this state. Big Pharma wants those who don’t leave to die by introducing millions of opioids into already fragile communities. Our waters are full of poison. It is a battle of good versus evil, the spirit of the Appalachian that refuses to succumb without a fight. It is the story of our people and the state I love in so much pain.
The Barnhill Prize honors Anne Clinard Barnhill’s generous spirit of support for all who love to read and write; her lifelong empathy with those who mine their childhood experience to understand themselves now; the natural vulnerability in her compelling prose and poetry; and her boundless generosity in sharing her writing passions with the world.
We are thrilled to announce that Sonja Livingston will award the 2022 Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Personal note from EDG: I studied with Sonja at #WVWCMFA when she was a visiting professor. She is warm, brilliant, and humble. I am so pleased she said yes! She also created a delightful and insightful series of interviews on her YouTube channel, The Memoir Cafe. Go there and subscribe.
Sonja is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, and teaches in the Postgraduate Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She has taught at the University of Memphis and in The Writing Workshops Abroad for the University of New Orleans in Edinburgh, San Miguel de Allende and Cork.
Read her gorgeous CNF: The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion; Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses; Ghostbread; Ladies Night at The Dreamland; and her wonderful CNF guide, Fifty-Two Snapshots: A Memoir Starter Kit. (All available through links on her website and wherever books are sold.)
We are delighted to share that #BarnhillPrize finalist Douglas Imbrogno (The Egg, Issue 20, Fall 2021) will read from his WIP memoir tonight in Huntington, WV; he will be joined via Zoom by the beloved Homer Hickam. Hear it straight from Doug …. and you can Zoom in, too:
“The “Writers Can Read Open Mic Night” monthly series resumes 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, FEB 21) with Homer Hickam and myself as featured speakers in 15-20 minute slots, followed by an open mic. In honor of “Rocket Boys,” his memoir made into the movie “October Sky,” I’ll read from a “sorta memoir” in progress, “WHAT HAPPENED: Confessions of a Failed Boulevardier” — a chapter on the night humankind first stepped off planet. An epic thing happened that night, not often mentioned. Also, a chapter on what it’s like coming up underground into the sunlight of Paris. Homer will ZOOM into the event; I’ll be live in person at Heritage Station plus viewable on ZOOM.
Not sure how we accomplished this, but today, February 1, is both the release of a new issue of Longridge Review AND opening day for submissions to our next issue. It would be groovy to believe I can accomplish this on the regular, but I think I’ll simply be grateful for the confluence.
Speaking of gratitude, I am awash in awe over our writers and artists. I feel this way every time we roll out an issue, but never take it for granted. Part of my mind holds back on expecting to love “the next issue” as much as I love the one or ones before it.
(Apparently, the universe is not humming along to the tune of my personal limitations Who knew, right?).
The diversity of CNF form, subject, tone, and conflict in these pieces is rich. You might notice a loose connection between all of them to relationships with fathers or father figures; in my first reads I didn’t notice it, but during the editing process it was impossible to miss. I learn so much from our writers, from their transparency and their willingness to dig deep, to put their humanity and that of those who brought them up in front of us readers and say, “This is who I was, who they were, and therefore part of who I am.”
What gets to me in this issue is how brave people can discover and own important turning points in their lives. There’s always a pivot, and I can feel the writers turning toward their personal sun. We don’t always see them walk into it, but somehow, I know they do.