September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review
I do not remember a time in my life when I was not reading or writing. My mother claims that she taught me sight words and to read simple readers before I was two. She still has some of my earliest “stories”: pages of scribbles and wavy lines, which I vaguely remember thinking was how cursive was formed. It was no surprise to anyone when I grew up active in literary magazines for both my high school and undergrad, became an English teacher, and decided to pursue an MFA.
During my time at Antioch, I remember hearing about The Citron Review. When I attended my first residency in June 2010, I found out I was pregnant with my first child and was teaching high school full time. When I graduated in June 2012, I was pregnant with my second. In 2015, The Citron Review found me right after I had my third child.
At the beginning of 2015, my husband accepted a job and moved our young family from Arizona to Northern California. We were away from all of our extended family. I was not teaching, but instead home full-time with our young boys, and we were going to welcome our third, alone and without the strong support net we had in California. At the same time, the day after our youngest was born, our middle son began his journey toward an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. The various testing, evaluations, and questionnaires we experienced with him, led us to pursue the same evaluations for our oldest. A brief time later, I had two young boys with new diagnoses, a newborn, and a new home to navigate.
When an opportunity arose for me to become a fiction editor for Citron I jumped on it. Looking back, I might have been crazy to take on the job. My life was hectic with children and therapies, and I was exhausted and drowning, but reading for Citron gave me something that was mine. It was my connection to the outside world, to a writer’s world. I scheduled my times to read throughout my week and reveled in the time I got to spend discovering new voices and stories. My job as editor became a fun secret to share with people. I stay at home with my children, and I edit for an online literary magazine. I have been delighting in my job ever since.
A good portion of the pieces included in the fiction section of this anthology pre-date my time with Citron, so as we have built this issue, I have discovered them for the first time, with fresh eyes. In Jennifer Popa’s “A Flesh Like Ours,” I found an emotional love letter to family through the impressions they make on our memories. Often it is a scene imprinted on us, the shape of a grandparent’s hand, a first experience with death that sticks with us. In each of these, and the others I read for the first time while selecting the pieces for this special issue, I found the same elements we strive to publish in every issue: crisp imagery that stays with you long after reading, and a universal story that evokes an emotional connection between the reader and the page.
Other pieces, I was able to revisit for a second time. I still remember the day that I first read Babak Lakhomi’s “The Closet-Woman” and excitedly alerted the rest of the fiction team. The simple story of a woman living in the narrator’s closet with undertones of horror. Can we trust the narrator? Is this woman really there? The thrill of the piece is all of this unreliability, and exactly why we also nominated this piece for a Pushcart award. I remember the instant sadness I felt when I first read Sara Estes’ “I Thought You Were and Anchor in the Drift of the World” as I tried to figure out if the characters were merely battling the struggles of a long distance relationship, or if even more tragically, the story was about a character’s inability to move on after a break-up. When I realized it was the first, and that an unnamed force kept two characters apart for months, my heart ached as Estes’ relayed the pain of trying to remember all the details of a beloved and how easily they can be forgotten, despite our best efforts.
The beauty of this anthology is that whether you have been a reader since the beginning, or have just recently found us, you will find a piece you may have missed the first time through, or see it in a new light. It has been an absolute pleasure discovering these voices and putting these issues together for you. I cannot wait to see what we discover in ten more years and beyond.
Elizabeth De Arcos
Senior Fiction Editor
The Citron Review