Notes on the Creative Nonfiction Selections

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September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review

When I started an MFA at Antioch University in 2010, coming from the Midwest to Antioch was like going from Pleasantville to Rio de Janeiro. Suddenly, I was immersed in a vibrant world of literature and social justice, of talent and diversity. The head of the program, attired in khakis and a Hawaiian shirt, began his opening comments by addressing the students: “Hello, hippies.”

He then casually added, “This program will change your life.”

The first program I attended there was a “Cobalt” lecture by Yuvi Zalkow called “From Poop to Glimmer,” which detailed his method for tracking submissions to journals. I think it took me the entire day to figure out that the Cobalts were the graduating seniors, and that Antioch had a tradition of identifying each entering cohort after colors, gemstones and, by the time I started, trees. (Like part of my cohort, I started as an Aspen but did a dual concentration and graduated with the Sycamores. Thus, instead of being named for a lovely tree, we became the Syc-Asses. But that’s another story).

On that first day, Yuvi showed how high the bar was set for students at Antioch. The cheers every Cobalt got from their peers at their lectures and readings confirmed that Antioch defied many stereotypes, including those about competitiveness in the literary world. Before long, I also learned about a group of Antioch grads, literary cool kids from the Citron cohort. A group of them had started The Citron Review, and their journal, like its name, had a reputation for freshness, as well as for bravery in tackling important topics and pushing the edges of style.

Over the next decade, The Citron Review’s founders continued as leaders in literature and they’ve passed the torch to new editors. For the past three years, I’ve been honored to be one of them. In 2012, Citron co-founder Aaron Gansky stated about the aesthetic of the journal: “In short, we like beauty, subtlety, power, and efficiency.” To this day, with my esteemed co-editors, we share that same simple vision.

For our 10th Anniversary Anthology, we’ve sampled the work featured in The Citron Review over the past decade. Within our 1,000 word limit, we’ve published works that hover at both edges of length, that illuminate and entertain readers, that incorporate experimental form and visual ingenuity.

One of our featured works is “Baton” by Ben Greenlee, an inventive piece that incorporates illustration and prose into a powerful political statement. Using a patent for a baton as his foundation, Greenlee weaves the imagery of “a skinny high-schooler in a sequined jacket leading the marching band down main street” into a seamless meditation on the insidious effects of police brutality.

We grieve with Amye Archer in “One Week,” a piece that expresses the tragic impact of school shootings. Through her lens as an editor assembling the stories of heartbroken families, over the course of one week, we view the emotional aftermath of these shootings, still obliterating everything in their path.

In “The Snake,” we watch Emanuele Pettener recreate a snapshot of summers on the coast of Croatia: “I was feeling so blessed, immersed in the jumbled smells of suntan lotion, grilled ćevapčići, wild fennel, and crabs cooked on charcoal embers. I proceeded along the path (a burnt sienna color) that led to our trailer, taking me past the coastal pines and prickly bushes: by then it was noon, two beautiful silver fish were slowly dying in my green fishing pail, stoking my pride, and mom and dad were expecting me for lunch.” From here, we see the idyllic day go awry.

In this anniversary recap, we also share the culture perspectives of the authors of “First Contact at Dog Point” and “The Translator,” who share insights of those who are straddling both traditions and generations. With a keen eye to the details in her Alaskan setting, Vivian Faith Prescott writes of her daughter, a member of the indigenous T’akdeintaan clan:

“I notice she’s wearing a statement on her t-shirt: ‘I am part White but I can’t prove it.’ The picture depicts the face of an Indian painted half-red and half-white.”

In another mother-daughter snapshot, Victoria Buitron bridges the limits of language as she weaves a picture of her role as “The Translator,” explaining nuance of sexual terminology to her Ecuadorian mother and her 12-year-old brother, correcting her brother’s use of the word “orgasm” and answering her mother’s innocent question, “¿Qué es cunt?”

From the earliest days of The Citron Review, in “The Scent of Death,” we see the world through the hazy eyes of a junkie. Patrick O’Neil writes about “cooking the dope” and viewing his best friend in the morgue, “with sixty fatal stab wounds, a caved in skull, broken bloodied fingers, and two dull dead eyes staring up from the gleaming stainless steel table.”

Because it’s difficult to show the diversity of a decade in a dozen pieces, we encourage you to look at the rest our anniversary picks, to take a lazy Sunday afternoon to peruse more of our back issues, or to enjoy the new Fall 2019 pieces in this issue over a hot cup of coffee.

And if you write, submit. Sometimes the pieces we publish come to us like a perfectly formed, luminous blue robin’s egg. Yet other pieces are an iterative collaboration as we work with the author to fully draw out the heart of the work, to chisel at the diamond we see glistening within. To all of our authors, we send our gratitude and admiration, it’s truly an honor to work with you.

To our readers—we thank you for your time, your suggestions and your continued support. You’re the reason we do what we do.

To our visionary founders, and to all those who played a role in this undertaking since, we say mazel tov. What greater tribute is there than to see the fruits of these efforts continue to resonate throughout the world?

Like my experience at Antioch, my work with The Citron Review continues to expand my world and challenge me in ways that I could never have imagined.

And yes, both have changed my life.

Yours in literature,


Marianne Woods Cirone
Senior Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review


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