Every story that comes in is special to me. Whether an assigned feature from one of the editors, an out-of-nowhere memoir-in-progress from a previously unpublished writer, a heavily scripted and designed chapter of our newest webcomic, A.D., or Mario Batali sending me a half dozen six-word memoirs in the middle of the night, each one is like a mini-birth. And this home for storytelling gets richer and richer with each contribution. As we get set for some very exciting changes in January—and celebrate two years of storytelling and the release our book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure—I wanted to look back at some of my favorite stories, and SMITH Mag moments, of 2007. What’s yours?
The 2007 SMITHies
Best Story Which Left the Writer Always on Top: Writing the Whip, the ongoing diary of Mistress Y, a working dominatrix in New York City.
Personal Confession That’ll Knock Your Socks Off: Cole Kazdin’s hilarious recounting of her experience posing nude.
Best Video: The six-word memoir video, created by SMITH cofounder Tim Barkow, and seriously some of the best three-minutes around.
Most Awesome Media Blitz: Shooting War, the original webcomic launched on SMITH in May, 2006, was published as a full-length graphic novel in late ‘07—and the media went nuts. From Newsweek to The New York Times to NPR and Daily Candy, the press heart the story of Jimmy Burns, America’s bad-ass, v-blogging young hope covering the war in Iraq, circa 2011. In the UK, where Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman launched their book tour, the love was big, from The Financial Times of London to British GQ, which named Shooting War one of the “100 Best Things in the World.”
Best Mixed Media: Michael Harlan Turkell’s Back of the House photo essay, featuring delicious shots from behind the scenes of the restaurant world, with audio narration by the photographer and an interview by Kathy Ritchie.
Biggest Surprise: The full-figured women of Leonard Nimoy’s The Full Body Project.
Most Surprising War Story: During his two tours, Marine reservist Todd Bowers snapped some 1,400 photos offering his intimate view of the war, from Jessica Lynch’s convoy after it was attacked to ironic shots of the Fallujah Career Retention Center. The net result was a series he calls Iraqi Graffiti, one shot of which was then mentioned in the NY Post’s Page Six and later The Colbert Report. Michael Slenske brought Bowers to SMITH, along with many other amazing stories of returning vets for his Back Home From Iraq series.
Best Way to Meet People at SXSWi: Walking around with a camera and announcing you’re creating a Geek T-shirt photo essay … which, who knew, turned out to be a big hit.
Best Brush With Fame: Sabrina Rubin Erdely plays Jewish geography with Steve from Sex in the City at a Planned Parenthood gala.
Best Family Memoir Told Via Images: Catastrophe, Crisis, and Other Family Traditions: The Photos of Jessamyn Lovell.
Best Seat in the House: Allen Rucker, whose book we excerpted and who I had the pleasure to interview about his story of developing a rare condition that left him paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 51.
Most Exciting Newcomer Over the Age of 80: Norman Bussel, 84, made his publishing debut with his memoir-in-progress, Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A POW’s Story of Survival.
Best of Many Great Stories by Bussel’s Granddaughter: Rachel Kramer Bussel has been a frequent SMITH contributor and all-around muse and offered one of the most thoughtful pieces all year with her interview with Ace of Spades author Dave Matthews.
Most Under-the-Radar Political Story: Daniel Heyman sat in on depositions of former Abu Ghraib prisoners and told their stories via incredible mixed-media project which we presented as a slideshow, Beyond the Hood: The Abu Ghraib Images. Although it was noted by BoingBoing, I still feel like lots of folks missed this one.
Art’s Best Imitation of Life: In a fascinating exchange in the comments area of Chapter 5 of A.D., one reader wrote—
“My only criticism is with the last panel when the woman screams ‘I’m gonna die in this bitch!’ It felt forced and took me out of the drama. I could almost hear the gangsta drum beats behind her ‘rap’ and wondered if she really blurted that line when she was alone and scared with her cat in the confines of her compromised position?
—to which the “character” Denise, an actual person, jumped in and replied:
That woman is me, and that is exactly what I was thinking at that moment and for many, many moments during the hurricane. I was terrified, and that was my expression of terror, not false bravado. And maybe, just maybe, rap music reflects the very real language of a very real people. Because, frankly, I talked like that before I ever heard a rap record.
So there you have it—never a dull moment. Thanks to the least dull people I know: daily SMITH makers Tim Barkow and Rachel Fershleiser, and a terrific crew of contributing editors and muses, including Jeff Cranmer, Alex Koppelman, John House, Rich Knight, Josh Neufeld, Jeff Newelt, Meaghan O’Neill, , Kira Peikoff, Kathy Ritchie, Jeremy Sadowski, Rosally Sapla, Katherine Sharpe, and Michael Slenske. We’d also like to send a special note of gratitude to every writer—of six words or 6,000—who made 2007 a wonderful year of life, art, and storytelling. Hope to hear your story in 2008.