We’re excited to say that three essays from the inaugural volume of 1966 have been selected as “notable essays” of 2013 by the editors of The Best American Essays 2014. They are:
“An Aristocratic Murder” by Judith Barrington and “Spook” by Lee Martin, from our first issue.
“On Saliva” by Alicia Catt from our second issue.
Congratulations, Judith, Lee, and Alicia, and thank you for allowing us to publish your work. And thank you to Robert Atwan, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and the other editors at Best American. The Best American Essays series celebrates our genre every year and brings all of us amazing essays we might otherwise have missed. It also encourages a lot of writers and small magazines through the recognition of their work in the “notable essays” list. That encouragement means a lot and we’re grateful. You can purchase The Best American Essays 2014 in October at your local, independent bookstore.
We asked some of the authors that we have published to reflect on research in their nonfiction work. Alicia Catt wrote the essay “On Saliva” published in our second issue. What follows are some of her thoughts on the research that she conducted for her essay.
My essay “On Saliva” actually began as an assignment for my CNF workshop: write about something you know about that not many other people do. For some reason, saliva was the thing that came to mind–I remembered the time I spit on “J” for money (which I can safely say is an experience most people are not familiar with!). After that, it was pretty much just a matter of following a single bodily fluid down the rabbit hole, so to speak. I’m actually still pretty fascinated by the things I found–I never imagined there would be so much to say about something as mundane as spit.
I had only recently retired from my escort job when I wrote the essay, and I was in a bit of a writing rut: all I wanted to write about was the sex industry, but I didn’t yet have enough distance to really do it justice. Incorporating all this research, I think, allowed me to sort of write around it–I got to write the scene with “J” and the scene with the threesome, but instead of really having to analyze and reflect on those moments, I could just zoom out again and talk about pheromones or venom or whatever, and trust that the reader would make their own connections. Maybe in a way the research even humanizes my admittedly bizarre experiences, makes them easier to relate to. Or at least, that’s my hope.