I first became aware of Tracy Crow’s work when I heard her read at an open mic night in downtown Charlotte, NC. The room was buzzing with the kind of noise that a bar on a Saturday night generates and I was preparing to be that person–the one who gives a loud “Shhhh!” to try to quiet down the room–but I didn’t get the chance. Tracy walked on stage and the first wave of noise quieted. She’s got a commanding presence thanks to an utterly appealing combination of runway model looks and Marine Corps officer panache. Half of the barflies immediately shut their mouths or dropped them open in awe. Then she started reading and the other half quickly followed suit. Her writing was riveting and her voice captivating. Readers were only allowed five minutes at the mic that night, but Tracy’s five minutes were enough to make a lasting impression on all of us.
So, when I took over editorship of r.kv.ry., I knew I wanted to talk her out of some of her fine non-fiction. I had read a wonderful piece of hers in The Missouri Review a few years back and asked for that. It was titled The Facelift, and you can read it here.
I reread The Facelift, loved it all over again, and immediately accepted it. Then Tracy casually mentioned that she had this other piece that had come really close at Esquire, but that had somehow been passed over. I was intrigued and asked her to send it along. It was What I Can Tell You Now and I promptly (and sheepishly) asked if I might publish it instead. I did this for several reasons–one, because it was unpublished, which appealed to me, and two, because it was set in Roanoke, Virginia, a place very near my hometown of Floyd. I knew the Star at the top of Mill Mountain that changed colors with news of auto accidents. I knew the mountains. I felt like I knew the narrator. So it was a combination personal-professional reason, as I suspect most acceptances are. Tracy graciously allowed me to un-accept the other essay, and accept this one instead. (I hope I have since become a more professional editor, but thankfully she let me cut my editorial teeth on her.)
Oh, and Tracy is also a former r.kv.r.y author, published four years ago under Victoria Pynchon’s editorship, so it’s made for a nice continuity having her work also in my first issue as editor. Her other r.kv.r.y. essay, Shooting Azimuths, can be read here.
And I’m thrilled to mention that her fabulous memoir EYES RIGHT will be forthcoming next year from the University of Nebraska Press. Look for it! I promise you it’s a must-read.