“Goodbyes always make my throat hurt. I need more hellos.”Charlie Brown
When it comes to personal notes like this, I tend to think that someone else has already expressed how I feel better than I can, so I look up quotes, just like I did when I was thirteen, trying to find wisdom outside of song lyrics. As a writer and editor, I feel a bit ashamed of the habit—I should know how to express myself, right? But words get stuck. Charlie Brown understands. I know goodbye must happen. I accept it. I will say it, and I will honor that it isn’t truly an end, but still, my throat hurts with the words.
When I started as a reader for phoebe, it was because I wanted to better utilize my seat within the literary community. I wanted to hear from more writers, learn from other editors and offer insight, even if quietly. As I took on the roles of managing editor and editor-in-chief, I pulled my desk chair closer to the center of the room, gaining opportunities to speak—to writers, about writing and through publishing. I feel grateful to have had that interior seat, because through it, I’ve made stronger bonds with not only the other people I’ve worked with at phoebe, but also writers and artists from across the world.
I remember some powerful insight from Jillian Ellis, a photographer I interviewed in connection with an online feature on her series, “Embody.” She said, “Humans are social creatures and we’re drawn to people, in general, and specifically when we can see our own emotions reflected back through someone else’s art. That can be a powerful experience. Sometimes we don’t see something within ourselves until we’ve seen it in someone else.” I love that explanation of artistic power. That it’s about connection, about mirroring the beauty and the pain in each other, to say to one another, “Hey, I get it. I’m here with you.” That’s the power of writing. Of reading. Of publishing. Of everything we do here.
So, I’m saying goodbye, sure, but I’m not being sent out of the room completely (not voluntarily at least). I still sit with this community. I still believe in phoebe and the work it does to connect readers and writers, the power it has to help people see themselves in the words and visuals of someone else. When reading the 50.2 issue, I feel the haunting nostalgia for a childhood experience in “The Maple Tree.” I feel the obsessive closeness of estrangement in “Welcome to Bad Mom Club.” I see a mirror of my hometown experiences in the work of Christopher Paul Brown, and of my own curiosity in the metaphysical life inside “Twins.” I see and I grow and I twist and I communicate by reading the writing we publish, by engaging with the volumes of insights these artists drum up and express.
So, above all, thank you. Thank you for inviting me in and giving me a seat. Thank you to everyone I’ve worked with, everyone who has offered me books to review, who has sat for an interview, who has edited my writing, taken my edits and read my emails. So many of you have trusted me; it is humbling to think of how you might’ve looked to me for help and insight, when I am no greater. You all have given me more than I could’ve ever done for you. You are forever my family, and what is a writer and editor without her literary family?
And as Charlie said, after lamenting the scratchy-throat-hurt of goodbyes, all we need are more hellos. Hello to our new editor-in-chief, Timothy Johnson, who has already proven his dedication and care for the journal as managing editor. Hello to another year with brilliant contributors, thoughtful genre editors, and inspiring art in all genres. Hello to fifty more years. Hello to all that is to come for phoebe. And hello, hello, hello to the literary community that will never drift away, but remain seated in this room with me, reading and writing and sharing, the sun rising and setting on our endless pots of coffee and the Peanuts comics taped above our desks.
Hello and goodbye and hello,
was raised on a Pennsylvania goat farm and has been slowly moving south one state at a time since. She is currently in central Virginia, a very recent graduate of George Mason University’s creative writing MFA program. With the Alan Cheuse International Writers travel grant, she journeyed through France and Switzerland two summers ago and is using that trip to write a novel centered on two brothers making the same journey, the eldest as his last before he accepts assisted suicide in Switzerland. As she finishes her chapters, Melissa hopes to renovate a school bus into a tiny house with her partner and travel the country writing from the road.