Grain Magazine 42.3, the second volume of this venerable literary magazine that I’ve guest edited, is now in the mail to subscribers. I really enjoyed working on it with poetry editor Kelly-Anne Riess and fiction editor Cassidy McFadzean.
Among the duties of the managing editor is to come up with a title for the issue. I chose “The Maps We Make,” and here’s my editor’s note, explaining why:
Casting around for a title for this issue of Grain, I netted this quote from the novel Love Over Scotland, by Alexander McCall Smith: “Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”
And there, buried within that quote, was my title: The Maps We Make.
Every writer is a mapmaker, filling blank pages with the coastlines and landmarks and roads and villages of a newly discovered land, replacing the vague warnings of “Here There Be Dragons” with precise and delicate delineations of fascinating places: places beautiful and ugly, places of joy and places of grief, places of peace and places of strife, places filled with hatred…and places filled with love.
The literary works in this issue of Grain, chosen with care by fiction editor Cassidy McFadzean and poetry editor Kelly-Anne Riess, are maps to all of those kinds of places, and many more. Though not the “unpublished maps we make ourselves” of which Smith wrote (for one thing, they’re now published!), they will become, if you let them, part of your own “unpublished map”: “Here I read a story that made me happy; here I read a poem that touched my heart; here I cried over tragedies past and present; here I fell in love with a person who never existed; here I found pleasure in the music and rhythm of well-chosen words.”
We each make our own maps, day by day. We map our life, we map our past, we map out our future. It’s an odd, yet very human, truth that sometimes the most prominent landmarks of these personal “unpublished maps” are made of make-believe: novels and stories and plays and poems that change our lives, point us in a different direction, and hence alter our personal maps in strange and unpredictable ways.
“Here There Be Dragons” was meant to frighten people away from the blank spaces on ancient maps, to warn them that if they journeyed into those spaces they might encounter…well, anything. For some, it was a warning. For others, it was an invitation.
The writers in this issue of Grain have entered those blank spaces and sent back the maps they made.
Dare to follow them. Perhaps you will find their maps can help you fill the blank spaces of the one you draw every day.