Willow Spring’s Fall issue’s centerpiece is the Fiction Prize winner “Color by Numbers” by Stacia Saint Owens, the tale of parallel lives with divergent destinies, recounted in parallel columns that merge and then separate again. It’s an effective and appropriate form and an emotionally challenging piece. A long interview “conversation” (multiple questioners) with fiction writer and journalist Jess Walter takes up much of the rest of the issue. Walter is adamant that reports of narrative’s demise are dead wrong, everyone yearns for story, and he’s thoughtful and articulate about his own plots, devices, and creative tendencies.
An essay by Kerry Muir, “The Bridge,” is a standout for the writer’s ability to recreate the voice and perspective of a child with tremendous success (“Cammy Tuttle is the smartest, toughest girl in our whole fifth grade.”). It’s that “whole” that makes the difference for me, creates a credible and likeable narrator, despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for narratives told from the perspective of children, and motivates me to read on. I also liked very much, Colleen Abel’s poem “The American Sign Language Translation of ‘I Have a Dream’” which opens the issue, which makes exceptionally good use of language we often refer to as “accessible” (meaning not overtly poetic, dense, lyrical, inventive, esoteric, or imagistic):
We can hardly pay attention
to American history
with the young girl
America’s vague circle,
slaves as hands in chains.
I appreciated, too, Katie Cortese’s story “International Cooking for Beginners,” especially considering the current cultural obsession with cooking-related books, TV shows, and movies. The story is cleverly divided into six sections representing the six cooking lessons, which the narrator teaches and, of course, it’s not really about cooking. It’s beautifully told, both entertaining and emotionally satisfying, and it made me hunger to read more of Cortese’s work.