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 by Gayle Brandeis (03.19.21), Eileen Favorite (03.17.21), David Griffith (03.18.21), Sonya Huber (03.14.21), Anna Leahy (03.15.21), Bill Marsh (03.16.21), Kathleen Rooney (03.14.21), David Wright (3.20.21)...

Iowa: Harrison Cook [email] or [insta] coordinating. Essays by Delany Brieback (03.04.21), Jordan K. Casomar (03.01.21), Alyssa Cokinis, Harrison Cook (02.28.21), Suzanne Guess, Morgan Haefner (03.03.21), Erika Veurink, Brooke Juliet Wonders (03.02.21)...

Indiana: Silas Hansen [email] or [twitter] coordinating. Essays by Kelsey Parker ErvickFreesia McKee; Andrew Cartright, Rajpreet Heir, and Robbie MaakestadChris CokinosMichael Martone; Andy Oler, and more to come.

Kansas: Denise Low [email] [website] coordinating. Essays by Diane Glancy (03.06.21), Louise Krug (03.08.21), Denise Low (03.12.21), Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (03.07.21), Cherie Nelson (03.09.21), Lisa D. Stewart (03.11.21), Robert Stewart (03.10.21)...

Michigan: Ander Monson coordinating. Essays by Anne-Marie Oomen (02.01.21), Alison Swan (02.02.21), Sven Birkerts (02.03.21), Monica Rico (02.04.21), Matthew Gavin Frank (02.05.21), Cris Mazza (02.06.21), Ron Riekki (02.07.21), Matt Medendorp, Jane Piirto, Keith Taylor, Amy Goldmacher, David LeGault, Christine Hume, Jill Kolongowski...

Minnesota: Jordan Wiklund coordinating. Essays by Karen BabineKao Kalia Yang, Mark Ehling, Keith Pille, Frank Bures, Kevin Finley, and more.

MissouriMichaella Thornton coordinating. Essays by Berry Grass (02.14.21), Amanda Hadlock (02.15.21), Hayli May Cox (02.16.21), Kate Carmody (02.17.21), Sophie He (02.18.21), Gabe Montesanti (02.19.21), Jennifer Murvin (02.20.21), Gwen Niekamp, Devin Thomas O'Shea, Caitlin Palmer, Gabriella Souza, Julija Ĺ ukys, Michaella A. Thornton, and more.

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

Nebraska: Kristine Langley Mahler coordinating. Essays by Sarah Fawn Montgomery (02.08.21), Jody Keisner (02.09.21), Kristine Langley Mahler (02.10.21), John T. Price (02.11.21), Elizabeth Fiala (02.12.21), and Robert Atwan (02.13.21)...

Ohio: Beeda Speis coordinating. Essays by Dev Murphy, Deanne Stillman, Ashley Bethard, Brandon North, Morgan Riedl, Kris Harrington, Beeda SpeisGrace Roberson, and more.

Oklahoma: Liz Blood coordinating. Essays by Rilla Askew, Phyllis Brotherton, Becky Carman, Gordon Grice, Mason Whitehorn Powell, Kathryn Savage, and more.

South Dakota: Caitlin Hill coordinating. Email, twitterwebsite.

Wisconsin: Craig Reinbold coordinating. Essays by Jody Kennedy (02.21.21), Charlotte Kupsh (02.22.21), Kim Nelson (02.23.21), B.J. Hollars (02.24.21), Jill Sisson Quinn (02.25.21)Craig Reinbold (02.26.21), Catherine Lanser (02.27.21), Holly Anne Burns, Melissa Faliveno, Jordan Megna, Jill Stukenberg, Lynn Wohlwend, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Alison Townsend...


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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