Online Journal Offers Forum for New Generation of Northwest Lit
Moss is a new online journal with a clear vision. “Great art arises from communities that are fully engaged with their place, their world, and their history,” say editors Connor Guy and Alex Davis-Lawrence. Submissions to Moss are limited to current residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. Writers who have a substantial connection to the region are also invited to submit. If you are a serious writer of fiction or creative non-fiction who meets one of those criteria, I would encourage you to consider submitting.
The desktop version of the website is well laid out with good navigational features. The bottom of every page has a hyperlink back to the beginning of the piece you are reading and another hyperlink back to the table of contents. I would like to see more of these features. Hyperlinking contributors’ names to their bios might be interesting. And the absence of a hyperlink in the table of contents to the end material seems like an oversight. Embedded in the end material is the Moss issue archive and the current call for papers.
The mobile version of the website reads fairly well. I would like to see more responsive sizing. The .pdf available for download works, but is missing the navigational features that are such a key part of the online version.
For this review, I focused on issue 1.3. Issue 1.3 has an interview with Rebecca Brown, stories by Miriam Cook and Jenn Blair, an essay by Rebecca Brown, an essay by Janie Miller and an essay by Steven Moore.
The opening interview with Rebecca Brown is delightful, though it ends abruptly. I am a fan of long-form interviews, such as those found in The Paris Review and on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF. Brown provides an overview of the literary community in the Northwest along with wonderful insights into the writing life. “It’s hugely important for writers to feel loved,” she reminds us.
“Your Best Bet," by Miriam Cook, is a quirky story. I love it. Beth has left George. But before they finalize their divorce, he dies—so Beth must deal with George’s estate. There’s a tiger involved, “a last gift from her almost ex-husband, but what the hell do you do with a tiger?”
The next story is “Packwood” by Jenn Blair. It has a conventional arc with an experimental tone. An unnamed narrator works at a hospital. She carefully records gifts given in the name of people who have died. “It’s tiring, looking at dead people’s faces,” she says. She’s also weary from being alone. The themes of death and partnership in Blair’s story are a nice match for Cook’s piece.
The non-fiction that follows in this issue of Moss is less engaging for me. Rebecca Brown’s “Four Memories of Breath” explores relationships through different kinds of breath. It feels to me more like a work-in-progress that was printed because Brown was chosen for an interview. It does, however, tie in well with the issue as a whole. The piece touches on death and partnership; and “breath” shows up elsewhere in this issue too.
“Snap the Whip," by Janie Miller, is a reflection on loss. It’s chewy, with dense blocks of observation and research that feel neither properly distilled nor developed. Miller says compelling things about her family, but the piece is cluttered and I don’t feel the emotion come together.
The final piece in this issue is “About the Days” by Steven Moore. It is essentially a series of dispatches from the US war experience in Afghanistan. It has an air of authenticity and significance, but the central insight is a little flawed—at least in my reading. Moore builds an argument about how the US army’s “language” reduces complex and sometimes horrifying experiences to apparently interchangeable and functional units. For example: “1st PLT B-CO IAW 5th Kandak ANA/ANCOP conducts MTD patrol to Androl NLT 0700 1 JUN IOT recon route feasibility and perform village assessment.” This is great territory to write about, but I think this “language” would be better understood and explored as a “code.”
Moss does not currently include poetry or visual art. Issue 1.3 demonstrates a high standard of editing with a focus on experimental prose and a keen awareness of the reader’s experience.
And oh, Moss pays $125 per piece.