Welcome to the first online issue of Essay. Since it was founded in 2000, Essay has been a home for extraordinary pieces of creative nonfiction by students at Susquehanna University. These pieces have lived in Essay’s gorgeous print editions, but never before has the magazine had an online presence. Until now.
Creating a website was no easy task, and we are tremendously grateful to everyone who helped us in the process of advancing Essay into a new era. We thank our advisors, Hasanthika Sirisena and Glen Retief, for providing endless support and encouragement. We thank our web manager, Ashley Toomey, for joining our team and helping us make this website beautiful and functional. We thank our print designer, Deon Robinson, for creating the gorgeous print issue that served as the foundation for this site. We thank the reading board members who helped us discover the pieces in this issue, and we thank the copyeditors who helped us perfect them. Most importantly, we thank our contributors for trusting us with their stunning works of prose, graphic essay, and photography.
As editors, we believe that strong nonfiction is endlessly evolving. The form of the essay itself is forever changing. With the launch of our new website, we’ve challenged ourselves to be fresh and innovative in our understanding of Essay—both its format and the pieces we seek to publish. We’ve asked the writers of our community to share pieces that are vibrant and experimental and new. We’re proud and excited to say that they’ve delivered.
The authors of this issue raise many questions about the complex nature of identity. With boldness and vulnerability, they look out at the world, as well as inside of themselves. In “Spilling Over,” Sam Einsig crafts memories into prose poem, recalling moments from their childhood in which they explored and confronted their gender identity. Einsig writes, “one day i hope for a real body that finally looks like mine.” In “Mega Millions,” Jacob Dimpsey purchases a lottery ticket and ponders the potential that it holds. Dimpsey imagines “paid-off student debt, sports cars, and luxury oceanside condos.” For just a moment, he revels in a different life to be lived by a different version of himself. In “Sometimes with Mercy, Sometimes Without,” Deon Robinson looks outward, reflecting on the many ways that society can perceive a single person. He offers the paradoxical idea that someone can be “so many people at the same time but never all of them simultaneously.” In his graphic essay “Life is a Drag,” Richard Berwind uses the lens of drag culture to examine the relationship between identity and the physical body. When he puts on drag makeup for the first time, he remarks, “I looked like myself but in makeup” and “I felt beautiful.” His piece illustrates how a change of appearance can transform our internal identities.
This first online issue marks a new beginning for Essay, and we can’t wait to see what happens next. Like us and our authors, Essay will change and grow. It will wrestle with its identity. It will evolve. We invite you, Reader, to evolve alongside it.
Rachel Pietrewicz & Hannah Phillips