Richard Hoffman

Nonfiction Editor’s Note

Theres a rocky beach near my house where the other day—bright blue cloudless sky, some chop on the water—I saw a man in a fishing kayak. He seemed well equipped, wearing a vest with many pockets, a floppy canvas hat to shield him from the sun. Although he was some distance away, I could see he was fishing with two rods; he also had a gaff to help him land fish and a well behind him in the kayak for his catch. As I watched from the seawall, he hooked a good-sized striper, and I thrilled to its splashing and flashing as only another fisherman can.

I had been admiring his skill with the kayak for some time. I’d only once tried to fish from a kayak, and that ended with the kayak capsized, my gear at the bottom of the bay, and a rescue just short of hypothermia. A fishing kayak is fitted with pedals that operate two large underwater paddles to keep your hands free, along with a rear rudder for both navigation and stability. Add in choosing lures, tying knots, casting, reeling, untangling line, and it’s a lot to manage, even before you consider that in the ocean you are never still and are subject to tides, currents, waves, and the wakes of larger vessels. More than once as I watched I felt alarmed at how close a combination of these dangers brought him to the jagged and barnacled rocks.

I won’t parse my analogy but leave it to the reader to consider the similarities to the writing process, and to the excited witnessing of skill and daring and singular attention that a reader will experience encountering the essays in this issue of Solstice Literary Magazine.

As an editor who is also a writer, I take it to be a sure sign of quality when my writerly envy kicks in, when I say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” So just as I thought to run home and grab my rod and clamber out onto the rocks to fish, I find my quickened urge to write is a great indicator of the force and beauty of what I am reading. It’s less like a competition than a wish to get in on the action.

The writers in this issue expertly navigate changing and challenging waters with essays about the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, and injustices historical and contemporary; essays interrogating the nature of time itself, the demands of parenting, the limits of friendship, and the difficult continual renewal necessary to survive trauma, as well as my own take on life writing and how best to read it.

Also, as we go to press, I have just heard that Uncommon Measure: A Journey Through Music, Performance, and the Science of Time by Natalie Hodges, one of our contributors, has been long-listed for The National Book Award. Her essay in our Spring 2021 issue is a chapter in the book. Congratulations, Natalie!

Richard Hoffman