My days revolve around con­ces­sions. A moth­er of two, I am a wife in the morn­ing and at night, a writer when the house is still, an edi­tor in the stolen moments between. Often I feel like none of these. Flimsy titles bend eas­i­ly, yield to baser truths: nose wiper, laun­dress, end­less pro­cras­ti­na­tor, hack. The slight­est thing can trig­ger the slip (a child’s cold, a pet­ty fight, Snooki’s book mania, a rejec­tion note) and just like that, dead­lines get extend­ed, din­ners spill from a box, school snacks are for­got­ten, and sto­ries remain unwrit­ten, as the gaps between who I am and who I think I am and who I would like to be widen and crack under the con­stant weight of com­pro­mise. —sl

I work as a com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er in Ohio where pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed; our stu­dents fail at alarm­ing rates.  65% are not pro­fi­cient in read­ing at grade four; we con­struct new pris­ons based on fourth grade pro­fi­cien­cy rates. The sta­tis­tics are far worse for chil­dren of col­or. Prisons thrive while our schools floun­der. Our orga­niz­ing grant has run out. We’re fail­ing our chil­dren by refus­ing to invest in their future. I also serve as a pas­tor at a small pro­gres­sive church that prac­tices extrav­a­gant hos­pi­tal­i­ty, sup­ports mar­riage equal­i­ty, and attempts to feed the hun­gry. We offer a ser­vice of heal­ing and whole­ness for those who feel bro­ken by life. I’m the per­fect per­son to serve as pas­tor to this flock because I am bro­ken in so many places the light can­not help but shine through. I’ve accom­mo­dat­ed my life to fail­ure but every day I vow to fail bet­ter. —gp

We are not unique. Sure, moth­ers rapid­ly learn this busi­ness, and pas­tors under­stand it bet­ter than most, but all of us, in every rela­tion­ship – parental, pro­fes­sion­al, col­le­gial, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and of course, roman­tic – accom­mo­date, make small adjust­ments to our own agen­das to allow room for oth­ers. It is essen­tial if we want to be part of the world. Like every­thing else, how­ev­er, it requires a fine bal­ance. The scales often tip. A theme is born.

The work we select­ed for this issue explores what hap­pens as a result of that slow steady build, how lives are worn, the fall­out. Dani Shapiro exam­ines the dev­as­tat­ing accru­al of lit­tle things from the stand­point of a new moth­er, while Karen Pittelman strikes at the heart of it in a poem to be read and re-read aloud: “We are learn­ing to make fire/but the prob­lem is now/it must be pre­served.” Jim Robison cre­ates a wall of sound and cap­tures an era. Mary Gaitskill invites us direct­ly into a fam­i­ly of choices—who has made whom? Andy Plattner shows us two men about to cross swords over a woman. Kim Chinquee’s unmis­tak­able voice is bare­ly inflect­ed but still hits all the right notes. Jonas Moody presents the news from Iceland, while Ann Bogle taps the theme in both con­tent and form, fit­ting her tan­gled tale to care­ful­ly mea­sured para­graphs. Story after sto­ry, our hearts are opened by writ­ers we admire and their words that stay with us, nec­es­sary, every one.

We offer this issue with thanks to all who sent their work our way.

Sara Lippmann & Gary Percesepe