[ PAST LETTERS ]
Publication should always be a celebration.
As a former English teacher, I try to keep in touch with my students as they continue through high school and college. A couple of my former students recently informed me that they loved my “short story assignments.” I couldn’t remember exactly what they were referring to because, let’s face it, there were so many days when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing in the classroom, but they reminded me. Sure enough, on days before a long school break, I would usually instruct students to take some time to write a short story. I would give them a guiding theme, but never a concrete topic. Part of the reason for this was that I never wanted to limit my students to the confines of what Iwanted to read. Some students would be excited for the freedom to write about anything they wanted, and others were nervous or unsure of what to share. What was interesting enough? How do I start? Is it okay if I write about ____?
Students would ask me so many questions about what they should or could write about, and they would almost get stuck when I told them “anything.” We’re not used to having the freedom to share whatever we want in our writing, and that’s a challenge that takes time to grow through. I remember my students handing in short stories of varying lengths, some very full of detail and imagination, and others reflections of a boring week spent at home with their families. No matter what, I read them all. I gave students the opportunities to share their short stories with the class as well, and we would celebrate their honesty, bravery, and unique skills in writing their own stories.
I’m so grateful for my students reminding me of these assignments because I remember being in their position. I took a writing class over the summer where I had the freedom to write about anything I wanted, and I got stuck when it came to thinking of topics for myself, but eventually I learned some strategies to guide my thinking, which ultimately guided my pen. I think of those moments now as I interact with writers and read the submissions that come to the Feminessay inbox. I receive the same questions that my students asked me and I give the same answers. You can write about anything that is relevant to your life and anything that you think is important. Look at the stories that we’ve shared so far- the poems, essays, memoirs, and everything in between- that tell of joy, hurt, appreciation, victory, loss, happiness, learning, and laughter. There is so much more yet to come, and you can be the writer of the next featured story that is shared with the world.
I’m so glad that this community doesn’t limit our writers to topics because there is so much out there to write about and I never want to force you to think of something specific just for the sake of publication. Any topics that we offer are meant to be used as guides. Think of them as invitations that you can turn down if you have something else in mind. No matter what you decide to publish, we’ll celebrate it and celebrate you because publication should always be a celebration. I can’t wait to see all of the new writing that we add to Our Stories this month!
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Global Editor-in-Chief + Founder