Best of the Net 2013  


You can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who laments the current state of the writing/publishing world. It's usually poetry that has finally gone to that great Norton anthology in the sky or is at least on its last legs. It is, according to some, a "limp and fangless" thing, no longer capable of moving us to real thought or action. (Remember the Alexandra Petri blog on Richard Blanco in the Washington Post? You can find it here.) The death knells of poetry, of course, signal a sure end to western civilization as we know it, and there's no clear sign that fiction or memoir are going to be around much longer either. It seems that no one's writing anything worth much anymore.

And of course we're still debating whether eReaders and electronic publishing mean that soon we'll just close down the presses so we can stop making books altogether and turn all the libraries into malls. I mean, if no one's writing anything good anymore, we might as well. Folks are nervous. The not-too-distant future could find us with nothing left to read but celebrity tweets, the backs of cereal boxes, and shape shifter porn (it's a thing, and you can find it on Amazon. I read one about cuttlefish not too long ago, and it changed me. Not in a good way). So are we doomed? Is good writing dead? Frankly, I'm getting tired of hearing that question.

The major reason the writing debates bug me (aside from their just seeming masturbatory at this point) is that I know, without a doubt, that good work—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and everything in between—is still being written and published. All the time. Every single day. I've been an editor with Sundress for over a year now, and the amount of good writing I see is pretty overwhelming (not to blow our horn too much, but we publish some amazing stuff). I'm so grateful I get to help in the fight against the Alexandra Petri's and other naysayers by putting good work, thoughtful and powerful work, out into the world.

This is my first stint as Managing Editor of Best of the Net, and initially I was simply blown away by the sheer volume of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction we received. Over two hundred journals submitted work to us this year. More than two hundred! That's a lot for a profession that's rattling out its last gasp. Over two hundred editors believed enough in the work they publish to nominate it for our award. That in itself is a testament to the life still left in the writing world. Then I got to see the finalists and winners (representing over fifty of the journals that submitted) and was even more impressed by the quality of the work itself, by its daring and strength and beauty. Good writing is not dead, people. Good writing is alive and well, and it will survive no matter how much the publishing world and the way we read change. It will survive the Alexandra Petri's and the others who claim it's already dead. Sundress and Best of the Net are just a small part of what keeps it going, but I'm glad I get to be a part of this small part. I'm glad you get to be a part of it as well.

Beth Couture
Managing Editor, 2013 Best of the Net Anthology