The #Midwessay: the Midwest Essay

The #Midwessay: the Midwest Essay: what is it? Is it a thing? Does it have any defining characteristics?

Well, since there as many Midwests as there are Midwesterners (and Midwesterners like to disagree about what the Midwest even is, which is perhaps a defining characteristic of Midwesterners, actually), we're wondering what the shape of the essay in the Midwest looks like to you in 2021. 

This project springs out of a twitter conversation, and we're expanding it to invite Midwesterners (define this however you like: by inclination, circumstance, residence, birth, sensibility, etc) to tell us what your Midwest looks like, and what, if anything, the Midwest essay might look like to you. Which Midwest essayists are closest to your heart? How does landscape or weather or culture (or any other aspect of the place) shape your essays? The essays you read? Your imagination of the Midwest?

We're particularly interested in reimagining what we think about when we think about the Midwest  (well, maybe not to the point of including Arizona) and the #Midwessay and who counts (and why and how) as a Midwest essayist, or what counts as a Midwest essay. Who gets to claim the Midwest or their Midwesternness, and how? Or: who wants to claim the Midwest and their Midwesternness? Does the Midwest mean something different in 2020 than it did in the past? Did the Midwest ever mean what it often seems to mean in the popular imagination (white, straight, bland)? What else might the #Midwessay mean or be? We welcome thoughts on any of these questions—or whatever you think about when you think about these questions.

We invite brief reports from the Midwest (the place or the idea) throughout 2021, to begin publishing on Essay Daily in February and March. We're thinking 100-500 words, but longer would also be welcome. Guessing we'll keep publishing these for a while too, so it's an open deadline.

We've divvied things up state-by-state, and volunteers have agreed to coordinate reaching out to essayists in that state. If you'd like to contribute a piece or suggest a writer we should reach out to, ping the state coordinator below or drop us a line at our twitter or to Ander via email (see the masthead on the upper right). 

Illinois: Dave Griffith and David Wright coordinating. Essays so far by Gayle Brandeis, Eileen FavoriteDavid Griffith, Sonya Huber, Julia Kamysz LaneAnna LeahyBill Marsh, Randy OsborneKathleen Rooney, David Wright...

Iowa: Harrison Cook [email] or [insta] coordinating. Essays so far by Joshua BohnsackDelany BriebackJordan K. Casomar, Alyssa Cokinis, Harrison Cook, Kyle FrancoisSuzanne GuessMorgan HaefnerBridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter, Erika Veurink, Jodie Noel VinsonBrooke Juliet Wonders...

Indiana: Silas Hansen [email] or [twitter] coordinating. Essays so far by Andrew Cartright, Rajpreet Heir, and Robbie MaakestadChris CokinosKelsey Parker ErvickMichael MartoneFreesia McKeeAndy Oler.

Kansas: Denise Low [email] [website] coordinating. Essays so far by Lisa AllenKathryn Jankus Day, Elizabeth DoddDiane GlancyLouise Krug, Denise Low, Denise Low, Nancy McCabeCaryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Cherie Nelson, Aislin NeufeldtLisa D. Stewart, Robert Stewart, Pamela Dawes Tambornino

Michigan: Ander Monson coordinating. Essays so far by Sven Birkerts, Sarah CurtisMatthew Gavin Frank, Jennifer FurnerAmy Goldmacher, Caitlin Horrocks, Christine Hume, Jill Kolongowski, David LeGaultCris Mazza, Matt Medendorp, Aram Mrjoian, Oindrila MuhkerjeeAnne-Marie OomenBeth PetersonJane PiirtoMonica Rico, Ron Riekki, Diane Seuss, Jaclyn Sipovic, Alison Swan, Keith Taylor... 

Minnesota: Jordan Wiklund coordinating. Essays so far by Karen BabineFrank BuresMark EhlingKevin Finley, Pilar Christiana GrahamKeith Pille, Alan Van WykKao Kalia Yang, and more.

MissouriMichaella Thornton coordinating. Essays so far by Berry GrassKate CarmodyHayli May Cox, Lyndsey Ellis, Conor GearinMelody S. GeeAmanda Hadlock, Sophie He, Allie LeachMelissa MatthewsonGabe Montesanti, Jennifer MurvinGwen Niekamp, Devin Thomas O'Shea, Caitlin Palmer, Steve Paul, Travis SchollGabriella Souza, Sebastian StockmanJulija Ĺ ukys, Michaella A. Thornton, and more.

NebraskaKristine Langley Mahler coordinating. Essays so far by Garrett AllenJeff AllesandrelliRobert AtwanCindy CritchfieldLaura Johnson DahlkeElizabeth Fiala, Jody KeisnerBridget LillethorupKirsten MacdissiKristine Langley MahlerSarah Fawn MontgomeryJohn T. PriceRobert James Russell, ... 

New York (Western): Sejal Shah coordinating. Essays so far by Sejal Shah and Stephen J. West, ...

North Dakota: Pamela Pierce coordinating. Essays so far by Joshua T. Anderson, Heidi Czerwiec, Peter Grimes, Patrick Thomas Henry, Reed KaraimBronson Lemer, Debra MarquartDavid R. Solheim...

Ohio: Beeda Speis coordinating. Essays so far by Ashley Bethard, Ron BurchKris Harrington, Dev Murphy, Brandon North, Morgan Riedl, Grace RobersonBeeda SpeisDeanne Stillman, and more.

Oklahoma: Liz Blood coordinating. Essays so far by Rilla Askew, Phyllis Brotherton, Becky Carman, Gordon Grice, Mason Whitehorn Powell, Gary ReddinKathryn Savage, Elizabeth J. Wenger, and more.

South Dakota: Caitlin Hill coordinating. Email, twitterwebsite.

Wisconsin: Craig Reinbold coordinating. Essays so far by Holly Anne BurnsMelissa FalivenoB.J. HollarsJody KennedyJesse Lee KerchevalCharlotte KupshCatherine LanserJordan MegnaKim Nelson, Jill Sisson QuinnCraig ReinboldJill StukenbergAlison TownsendL. L. Wohlwend, ...


Are you a writer who identifies as a Midwesterner (whatever that means), or are you someone who has a thought or observation on the #midwessay? Don't see your state listed? Or if it's listed, but we don't yet have a coordinator for it, would you want to be that person?

We're interested in widening definitions here, generally, not restricting them. But no, we're not counting Arizona as the Midwest.

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