From Our Staff | December 02, 2010

For about the past year or so, in addition to reading submissions, working on my own writing and offering Michael plenty of unsolicited advice, I’ve been working on a secret project, one that is now almost ready to see the light of day, and one that I think you, our loyal blog readers, should be among the first to hear about.

On January 24, 2011, we will launch textBOX: an online anthology of exceptional fiction, essays and poetry published in The Missouri Review since 1978.

The anthology project has been slowly developing, gradually gathering steam for almost three years. In the beginning, it was just an idea: what if we could find a way to keep some of the really good stuff from being buried in the archives?

Evelyn Somers has been with The Missouri Review since 1986, and has been Associate Editor of the magazine since 1990. She has worked closely with many authors of fiction and non-fiction over the years, polishing their stories and essays until they gleamed, ready for publication. Each issue of the magazine is published, celebrated, distributed, and then… what? Some of our back issues (2004-present) are available through the Project Muse database, but of course not every library can afford to subscribe to every database. Some pieces are later published in a collection by the author, and a few are selected for republication in the Best American series.

But what about the others?

Evelyn began to wonder if there wasn’t some way that we could reach down, deep into the archives, and pull out those few gems that had stuck with her through the years: the stories or essays that had resonated, hit a cord that was so pitch perfect they lingered in the air for years after their issue had been boxed up and set aside to make room for the next one.

The Internet has made so many things possible, and an online anthology emerged as the perfect means through which to help some of these remarkable pieces once again see the light of day. As the idea continued to develop, it began to merge with another idea that had been floating around TMR’s offices: organizing some sort of reading group and finding new ways to foster literary community and discussion.

Working with a team of graduate students and interns, Evelyn created an initial template for how each piece would be presented to readers along with a brief introduction and a selection of interpretive questions. In its early stages, the anthology seemed ideally suited for teachers of contemporary literature, but we soon realized the potential for creative writing groups and classes as well, and craft-oriented questions and writing prompts were added to the template.

For the first couple of years the anthology – nameless, websiteless – existed as a side-project: something to be worked on in spare time, bits and pieces. Last spring and summer, in between coursework, finishing my thesis, and occasionally paying some attention to my children, I began working with Evelyn to turn the anthology from an idea (and a list of amazing stories and essays) into a reality. Finding time to work on the project became a whole lot easier once my thesis was finished and my daughters went skipping off to school for another year.

Since then things have really begun to take off. My two interns (Molly and Hannah – both very bright and dedicated) and I have spent the past few months building a website and compiling, reading, rereading, analyzing and creating additional content to accompany some of the most fantastic literature ever published by The Missouri Review. We’ve tracked down authors across the United States and as far away as Israel and Japan, renegotiated contracts, gathered information and formatted it just so. Soon, very soon (January 24!), the anthology will be ready. Until then, keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook for more details and if you’re not already following us on Tumblr, now’s the perfect time to start: over the coming weeks we will be posting excerpts of the amazing essays and stories that will appear in full on textBOX at the end of January.

Nell McCabe is the anthology editor of The Missouri Review.