In a year unlike any other, we were all forced to confront what is essential and what truly keeps us connected. In crafting the theme “Hunger” for Volume VI in a storm of uncertainty, we knew one thing would not change: stories. We still needed them—whether to measure the hours under lockdown or escape it completely. Stories bind us together, through continents, centuries, periods of political unrest, social awakening, community change, times of pandemics, and great loss. Stories say, “We are here.”
Even if there is only one author or a singular “I” narrator, all stories are “We.” Instantly, in an opening line or poetic pause, the reader connects to the writer. A stroke of paint or the subject of a photograph is suddenly sitting across the table from the viewer. This act of connection is sometimes unnoticed, unnamed, yet still we know what it feels like when it hits our gut. We all have a hungering for a flavor we can’t quite name.
With “Hunger,” writers and artists certainly delivered in achieving work that explored the very act of need itself. As we made our way through the slush of full-course meals, delicate desserts, and very fleshed-out cannibalism, we had to figure out new ways to work remotely. Expo readers and editors held virtual meetings instead of our usual in-person meetups. What we thought would feel potentially disengaging was anything but. Readers called in from Chicago, New York, Canada—some who never would’ve made it to a small café in Southern California—all passionate about the work they were reading. We talked about what inspired us as readers and writers, held themed sessions around different genres (shout out to the Garfield comic for inspiring a great debate on what experimental work looks like), and shared recommendations on adult beverages we were drinking. We got to know each other in a way that felt very real, even if we were sometimes on mute.
Through all of our reading of more than 450 submissions, we found pieces that challenged us and surprised us, and some that were so good we were willing to throw hands for them. From an expectant mother’s journey home, to hummingbird tongues, to a multiple-choice quiz about teacher burnout, the hunger we gravitated toward wasn’t as overt as a rumbling stomach. We found hunger that cropped up between the lines, that scratched an itch, and that satisfied our need to slip into a character’s shoes and find a home.
This issue is the culmination of the past year of submissions. One that, though strange and dark and heartbreaking, gave us real moments of togetherness, love, and change. It reminded us why we do this in the first place. We hope these pieces touch some hungry spot in you, too, through that elusive unknown flavor—that they nourish a piece of you, pull you closer to the writing community, spark a yearning in you that’s always been there but just needed a tiny push.
So pull up a chair, there’s always room at this table.
Welcome to Vol. VI: “Hunger.”