Essays / Features

Back & Forth: Reflections on One Year of BLOOM

by Sonya Chung

So here we are, one year later.  It would be predictable and cliché to say how quickly the year has gone by; and of course it has, that’s the way of things nowadays.  The forces of work and day-to-day necessity propel us forward, while we look over our shoulders at everything left in the wake of relentless motion—things we should have or could have done, or done more of, or done better.  People we lost touch with, missed connections.  Some of us don’t look back but instead have learned well from Orpheus, who let his anxiety get the better of him and looked back instead of up and forward, thus losing what was most precious.  But then there is also sankofa, the Ghanaian word/symbol meaning “reach back and get it,” and associated with the proverb, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”  The paraphrase of sankofa that I’ve always carried with me is, We must go back to go forward.

These days, forget “looking back”, or “going back”; it’s hard enough just to slow down, or even pause.  And that’s what I’ve admired so much about our Bloomers.  When I pause to look back (thank goodness for anniversaries to remind us) at the authors we’ve featured at Bloom this past year, I think of the inertia they all bucked, willfully and courageously: all of them could have just kept going the way they were going, doing what they somehow ended up doing that wasn’t writing, or art-making.  It’s a fundamental principal of physics, remember, for objects in motion to stay in motion; or, put another way, for objects to resist a change in motion, both velocity and direction.

Many of these Bloomers were doing (and continue to do) perfectly valuable and interesting work, including raising families and/or materially supporting loved ones.  In a sense, the decision and commitment to write—in particular to write something book-length, which typically requires years of focus, refocus, writing, rewriting—is a harder decision when one’s life is pretty-much-going-okay.  One has to listen more closely to that inner voice, heed the quiet tug: Something’s not quite right; you’re missing something; it’s important; slow down; change direction.  In this case, a true decision—an act of will, usually against the grain—is required; because no one will notice, no one will really suffer, if you just keep going.

And yet: isn’t it a kind of suffering to live in a world without Middlemarch, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Moviegoer, Under the 82nd Airborne, Little House on the Prairie, Black Beauty, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Austerlitz, Out of Africa, Tinkers, Matterhorn, Wonder, Three Junesalong with the exciting and promising work, current and future, of the talented debut writers we’ve featured here?

Re: “perfectly valuable and interesting work,” I am struck by how many of our featured authors are or have been active journalists (Joe Schuster, Peter Ferry, Pete Dexter, Charles McNair, Josh Rolnick, to name a few); academics (Bee Ridgway, Elaine Neil Orr, Barbara Trapido, Dana Hand, W.G. Sebald, André Aciman, Louis Owen, Pauline Chen); and publishers/editors (Diana Athill, Joseph Kanon, R.J. Palacio, Samuel Richardson, Shannon Cain, Don Lee).  Among our featured Bloomers are also former and current attorneys, physicians, restaurateurs, retail clerks, military officers, waitresses, high school teachers, stay-at-home parents, copywriters and corporate writers, and countless other jobs and professions that represent significant and, at the least, deeply interesting life experience—all ultimately fodder, one way or another, for poems and novels and stories and memoirs.

Some other notable look-back facts: we’ve featured 49 authors and published 29 interviews.  33 of the authors featured are living; 24 are women.  41 are fiction writers, 8 have written and published significantly in the realm of nonfiction.  Only two are poets, and 8 are people of color (and if you’d like to help us with these shortfalls, please do get in touch! For our part, we’re working on it).

It is, too, predictable and cliché to thank all of you—our readers and supporters—along with Bloom’s crack staff and writers, for everything you do.  Ah, well.  We started Bloom as “a community of artists and readers who believe that ‘late’ is a relative term, not an absolute one, and who are interested in bringing to attention a wide variety of artistic paths.”  Indeed, a community we have become.  So, thank you.  Looking back at all this incredible content at Bloom, at the time and intelligence and creative thought that has gone into each feature piece, each essay, each interview; there really is nothing else to say.  (Except for, maybe, How in the heck did we get all that done?  Bloom staff, and Bloom writers, you truly rock.)

And let’s all remember that, no matter which way you’re currently looking—forward or back—a pause, or a change in velocity or direction, can lead onward and upward to truly great things.

Bloom Post End

Sonya Chung is the Founding Editor of Bloom and author of the novel Long for This World.  Currently she is also a staff writer at The Millions and teaches creative writing at Skidmore College.

Homepage photo credit: Jeff Kubina via photopin cc

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