Since we debuted our Open Road essay in the November 2018 issue, we’ve had the great fortune to feature some of the state’s brightest literary minds. Kicked off with a spirited piece by beloved Austin author Sarah Bird about her writing fellowship at J. Frank Dobie’s Paisano Ranch, the Open Road section hasn’t had a repeat writer in its nearly five-year run. This month’s essay, the 57th in the series, is penned by poet, essayist, and University of Texas associate professor Roger Reeves. Though originally from New Jersey, the National Book Award finalist now based in Austin is indicative of the deep talent reflected in today’s Texas literary landscape.
About a year ago, novelist and editor S. Kirk Walsh reached out to us about the possibility of publishing fiction in our magazine. For the past 11 months, she’s worked closely with Deputy Editor Mike Hoinski, who commissions and edits our Open Road section, on Texas Highways’ first collection of short stories. Walsh’s many literary bonafides include authoring the national bestselling novel The Elephant of Belfast, founding the nonprofit writing center Austin Bat Cave, and writing for The New York Times Book Review. As guest editor, Walsh approached six Texas authors—four of whom are new to our pages—about writing exclusive short stories set in small town Texas. The six writers represent a cross section of the state’s increasingly diverse storytellers. “Today’s Texas canon is more inclusive and expansive, with many different writers chiming in on the Texas experience,” Walsh says. “It’s an exciting time to be both a writer and a reader here in Texas.”
With a hat tip to recently departed literary giants Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, contemporary Texas writers are ushering in a fiction renaissance. “There is a Wild West feeling to today’s writers—a willingness to take risks, explore the borders of narrative and identities, and generate a form of resistance,” Walsh continues. “As we all know, Texas is not one thing, and this is reflected in the kinds of novels and stories coming out of the state right now.”
Beyond the fiction package, this issue is packed with small town content, including a weekend getaway in West Texas outpost Comstock, a behind-the-scenes look at how Oscar-winning film Tender Mercies transformed Waxahachie 40 years ago, and our annual list of Small Towns to Visit Now. As for Walsh’s small town recommendation, she’s partial to Bolivar: “Every time I walk along the North Jetty, I feel my heart dilate. I love the changing light, the fishermen who sit along the jetty, and the many birds—from black skimmers and roseate spoonbills to terns and great blue herons.”
Emily Roberts Stone
Editor in Chief