Michael Dowdy

Editor’s Note

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Litmosphere: Journal of Charlotte Lit, and home of the first annual Lit/South Awards.

Before assuming my role as editor, I occasionally entertained the thought that, surely, the world does not need another literary journal. Thankfully, I usually caught myself sauntering back in the opposite direction. Surely the world—not least the many worlds found within North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia, the five southern states included in our contest—could stand a few more vibrant poems and stories and, equally important, a few more readers on the edges of their seats. The inimitable C.D. Wright, whose off-kilter Southernness I always admired, refusing as she did to ditch her accent during decades in the Ivy League, put the relationship between word and world simply: “I believe the word was made good from the start; it remains so to this second. I believe the word used wrongly distorts the world.” As to why we readers and writers choose to read and write rather than engage in what she calls the “predatory arts” (dear reader, choose your own profession), she concluded, “Some of us do not read or write particularly for pleasure or instruction, but to be changed, healed, charged.” Following Wright, I believe that the fiction, creative nonfiction, flash, and poetry in Litmosphere will greet you in “charged” registers. With its multiple meanings, ranging from batteries, smartphones, and electricity to courtrooms, battlefields, and sports arenas, “charged” carries the currents of the complex, sensitive, and flexible powers of the word when it touches the world.

The winning poems and stories of the Lit/South Awards featured in these pages were chosen by the brilliant and generous writers Ron Rash (fiction), Stephanie Elizondo Griest (creative nonfiction), Tara Campbell (flash), and Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs (poetry). We are honored to present exceptional writing by our contest winners Dustin M. Hoffman (“This Picture of Your House,” fiction), Karen Salyer McElmurray (“In Varanasi,” nonfiction), Amber Wheeler Bacon (“The Damage,” flash), and Amie Whittemore (“The Peony,” poetry), along with the impressive collection of runners-up, honorable mentions, and editors’ selections. We are also excited to include stories and poems by our judges: Rash’s “The Belt,” Griest’s “Día de Muertos,” Campbell’s “The Loveliest Thing,” Brown’s “Prayer to Be Still and Know,” and Jacobs’s “Ordinary Immanence.” It may be unusual for journals to feature writing from their contest judges together with the winners those judges have selected, but I love the way it affords writers the opportunity to share space—across generations, career stages, genres, and geographies. I hope that this shared “litmosphere” momentarily levels some of the literary world’s persistent hierarchies, such as the one between “established” and “emerging” writers.

This first issue of Litmosphere: Journal of Charlotte Lit enters the world at an alarming historical juncture, with the world unevenly and tentatively emerging from a pandemic while simultaneously teetering on the precipice of catastrophic climate change, democracy’s demise, and the threat of world war. Contrary to Wright, I’m often skeptical that writing can “heal” or “change” writers and readers. Even so, I remain open to those possibilities. The deft, luminous, and sometimes challenging writing in these pages renews and expands my optimism in such transformations. With Wright’s living example in mind, I remain steadfast in my belief in the potential for stories and poems to charge and be charged.

Michael Dowdy

Columbia, South Carolina