I’m thrilled by the positive response that Embark, a newcomer to the literary scene, has met with in the past few months. We received over a hundred submissions for our inaugural issue, and reading through them proved to be even more inspiring and enjoyable than I’d hoped. The collection offered a vast range of themes, settings, characters, and styles. In the end, it was very difficult to choose just ten to feature in this issue.
As anyone with an eclectic taste will recognize, good writing is not an absolute: what works in one genre often seems out of place in another; the modern vernacular of a YA novel might differ dramatically from the descriptive passages in a work of historical fiction, but both books can still be extraordinary. In this first issue of Embark, readers will find an array of genres, from science fiction to surrealism, from the story of a would-be saint to a suspenseful police thriller. The characters are similarly wide-ranging: mothers, teachers, doctors, robbers, an officer on a spaceship, a teenage composer. What unites all ten openings is their power to engage the reader and deliver the unexpected. With each one, I found myself forgetting the pile of others to be read, the need to judge and assess; instead I simply floated along on the author’s confident prose, appreciating the vivid imagery, startling plot twists, and amusing or intriguing dialogue. I identified with the characters and felt eager to learn what would happen to them. In other words, I experienced what every effective opening should create—the desire to read on.
Yet I also found great satisfaction in reading these beginnings on their own—not only the ten in this issue but many of the other submissions as well. They came from all over (in this issue alone we’re featuring writers living in eight different states!), and the fact that across America writers are producing such fascinating books filled me with excitement. This country possesses an immense and vibrant writing community, and I’m delighted to be part of it.
I hope that Embark’s readers will feel as energized as I did when reading these openings and their accompanying Authors’ Statements. Thank you to the contributing writers for submitting such wonderful work! I look forward to publishing many more, equally enthralling issues in the future.
— Ursula DeYoung, Founding Editor
Table of Contents
NECESSARY SINS – Elizabeth Bell
WE ARE THE MUSIC – Sean Griffith
THE ICE-MAKER’S DAUGHTER – Judith Haran
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD – Derek Heckman
THE DISTANCE FROM FOUR POINTS – Margo Orlando Littell
MEDIAN GRAY – Bill Mesce
WATER BODIES – Jeffrey Perso
A MAP OF THE MIND – Jo-Anne Rosen
RABBIT MOON – Marian Szczepanski
TO THE TOUCH – Shannon Connor Winward