4/19/13 ASHLAND, Ohio – Two essays that were first published in Ashland University’s River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative will be featured in Best American Essays 2013, the long-running series published by Houghton Mifflin Books and edited by Robert Atwan.
The co-editors of River Teeth, Dr. Joe Mackall, professor of English, and Dr. Dan Lehman, Trustees' distinguished professor of English, were informed of the two award-winning essays and noted that they were written by authors with deep roots in the Ashland University Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing Program.
The essays were written by Steve Harvey, an honored graduate faculty member in the Ashland MFA Program, and Jon Kerstetter, a 2011 Ashland MFA graduate who was a combat physician and flight surgeon for the U.S. Army who completed three combat tours in Iraq.
Bestselling author Cheryl Strayed (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail) was the guest editor of Best American Essays 2013 and she chose Harvey’s and Kerstetter’s work from among the many hundreds of entries that Atwan and she reviewed this year.
“The fact that River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative contributed two of only 25 pieces published in Best American Essays 2013 cements the journal’s reputation at the forefront of literary magazines published in the United States,” Lehman said.
Mackall said that Atwan revealed that no journal, magazine or newspaper had two winners this year except for River Teeth and The Paris Review. The latter is one of the most venerable literary journals of the 20th and 21st centuries, so River Teeth is in good company, Lehman said.
“This is a big deal for River Teeth, now in its 15th year. Nearly every year, our pieces are named as honorable mentions, but the last time we had winners was in 2005, when we also had two,” Lehman said. “And the fact that these two winning writers include an honored visiting faculty member in the AU MFA program and a 2011 MFA alumnus is also pretty cool.”
Sarah Wells, the administrative director for MFA, serves as managing editor of River Teeth and coordinates the journal’s design and production.
According to Lehman, she has raised the journal's profile significantly with increased print subscriptions and a strong online presence that includes Kindle editions and widespread library distribution through Project Muse at Johns Hopkins University.
“The journal’s acceptance rate is less than 2 percent of the nearly 2,500 nonfiction submissions it reviews each year,” Lehman said.
Harvey’s essay, "The Book of Knowledge," is the opening chapter of his memoir in progress, The Book of Knowledge and Wonder, which concerns the suicide of his mother in 1961, when Harvey was 11 years old. The Ashland MFA faculty member subsequently discovered 406 letters his mother had left behind and embarked on a writing project that he says "has the feel of a detective story. Before I read the letters, my mother had become little more than her death to me, but while writing her story I discovered a woman who, despite her vulnerability to depression, had a large capacity for wonder and a love of familiar things, legacies that she passed on to me."
Jon Kerstetter's "Triage" concerns his experience as a combat physician in Iraq on the day that Major General Jon Gallinetti, U.S. Marine Corps, accompanied him on late-night clinical rounds. "The general laid his hand on the expectant soldier’s leg—the leg whose strength I imagined was drifting like a shape-shifting cloud moving against a dark umber sky—strength retreating into a time before it carried a soldier," Kerstetter writes. "And I watched the drifting of a man back into the womb of his mother, toward a time when a leg was not a leg, a body not a body, toward a time when a soldier was only the laughing between two young lovers—a man and a woman who could never imagine that a leg-body-man-soldier would one day lie expectant and that that soldier would be their son."
Harvey is a core faculty member who has taught creative nonfiction in the Ashland University MFA program since its inception. He is also professor of English at Young Harris College in Georgia. Kerstetter was a member of the Ashland MFA’s third graduating class and raised funds for the Wounded Warrior Project through a special pre-order of the River Teeth issue that published his essays about Iraq.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###