When we’re small, beginnings and ends are simple. We start with “Once upon a time” and end with “And they lived happily ever after.” Unless, of course, one is the wicked witch skulking through the woods, in which case you are not promised a kingdom or the love of Prince Charming. But for the good, the true, and the noble, happy endings are a reward, and everything that comes before that is Story. Even when children graduate from fairy tales and picture books to chapter books, happy endings are still mandatory.
When we first begin to read books with unhappy or complex endings, it tends to be discomforting. We miss the order and the justice. Then with time, the simple endings become unsatisfying for most of us. It’s like grape juice and wine. Wine will never have the sweetness of juice, but you gain so much in the complexity. As our reading tastes mature, we are no longer contemplating an ideal world, but instead we are seeing our own world mirrored in fiction, with all its humor, tragedy, and uncertainty.
A few years back, my cousin was reading chapters of a novel I was working on, and she made the observation that all the chapters ended sadly. I was surprised by this. I didn’t view my project as sad, merely realistic, and I realized the outlook I brought to my writing mirrored my outlook on life. I was an accidental cynic, and I didn’t like it. The very thing that disturbed me then is what makes literature so fascinating. With the stories, poems, and essays of this issue, we can see the world from various viewpoints. Sometimes we see with hope, with idealism, with fear, with longing, with cynicism, and with awe, and we hope you’ll find all of those things here.
With this issue, Halfway Down the Stairs celebrates five years of publication. We began our publication with folktales retold, an issue consisting solely of the editors’ own writing. With time, we have been privileged to gain a steady readership and to receive submissions that get better with each issue. We’re no longer just beginning, though it may have taken us a few years to realize this, and we’re far from an end. I’d like to think we are mid-story right now.
We would like to thank you, our readers, for being here with us at this five year mark and of course, all the writers who have contributed to this and previous issues. We are also excited to introduce our newest poetry editors, Ashley Vemuri and Joseph Murphy, who will be joining our staff as we prepare for our December issue, themed Silence. If you are interested in contributing to our lucky thirteenth issue, please see our submissions guidelines here. Also, Halfway Down the Stairs is now on facebook and you can visit us here.
— Stacy Wennstrom, Senior Nonfiction Editor
© 2010, Stacy Wennstrom