ICYMI #004: Hauntings.


ICYMI no. 004  |  October 2020

Welcome to ICYMI Monthly. Every month, we feature four essays and two craft pieces handpicked by our editors.

In our 25+ years, Creative Nonfiction has published hundreds of original works, most of which have never been available online. Now we're sharing some of our best writing with you. Happy reading!



ESSAY  |  True Story #15 (2017)
Haunted by the long-unsolved mystery of a local boy’s disappearance, the author tries to make sense of a terrible story that isn’t really hers to tell—but that also shaped her entire life

"I don’t remember how long we stood there, how long we studied the grass in the ditch, how long we strained our eyes for a clue that had been missed, how often we dreamed about the second when—on October 22, 1989—the road we were standing on became not a road but the last road, when the bike went from upright to flat in the grass, the rear tire spinning, when not only the grass and the ditch and the road and the town and the state but the entire world changed." Read →


ON CRAFT  |  CNF #54, Lost Truths & Family Legends (2015)
VISITING THE PAST  |  Sejal H. Patel
A trial lawyer applies her skills to build a complete picture of her father's past

"I had realized that to understand my father—and myself—I had to learn more about my family’s past. I was a year into divinity school studies then and kept seeing Simone Weil quoted in my readings: To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul." Read →



ESSAY  |  CNF #47, Female Form (2013)
THE MEMORY TRAIN  |  Sara Dailey
On hemispheres of thought

"In the left hemisphere of my forebrain, I’m told, there’s a signal abnormality, too small to be a worry, though the neurologist never explains exactly what this means. Instead, I’m left to imagine my brain as a sort of vast power grid with a downed line in some sparsely populated rural quadrant; the chain is broken, the path washed away by spring flooding, the circuitry faulty. My untrained eye, looking at the 157 slides the doctor took during an MRI of my brain, can never find it: that small spot where the current skips, where the wires get crossed—my bad part. Is this where the soul is? Does it reside somewhere in the slippage between synapses, just a jumble of electrical impulses choosing their own destinations? Perhaps this is why no one can map the soul, and why when it leaves, it is always beyond our reach. Sepia-toned, the slides arrived on a disc, mailed to me in a white window envelope, innocuous looking, like computer software." Read →



ON CRAFT  |  CNF #54, Lost Truths & Family Legends (2015)
The challenges of writing about family, when the main character can't be found

"In 2009, my mother’s youngest sister went missing. She was in Maui. I was in South Africa. My mother, in Chicago, stopped receiving her sister’s Saturday e-mails. The process that followed lasted a year: my sister and I—the two youngest of six—searched for my aunt from afar; my sister flew from Seattle to Maui to search in person; and then we hired a private investigator. The final step was a formal grid search; when that turned up nothing, investigators concluded she was gone. They said we’d likely never find her remains." Read →


ESSAY  |  CNF #70, Home (2019)
FREEDOM  |  Emily Waples
An Ohio gothic

"It started with wasps. At the end of our first year in the house, they ate through the walls. I would find, first, the dusty piles of plaster by the baseboards, the strange detritus materializing like unlikely anthills on the ugly green carpet. Only later would I recognize these for what they were: evidence of invasion. At last, I saw the wasps themselves, clinging to the sheer white curtains and crawling along the windowpanes, or else strewn lifelessly across the floor and sills, their bodies transmuted into brittle husks." Read →



ESSAY  |  CNF #42, Unthemed (2011)
EXTINCTION  |  J. D. Lewis
Miracles of reappearance and the Lazarus species

"A coelacanth is a big, ugly prehistoric fish. A sea monster, really: 6 feet, 170 pounds. Unattractive, with four stumpy fins poking down from his belly like arms amputated at the elbow. His jaw hinges at the skull, opens for an oversized bite, juts rusty-nail teeth in every direction at once. The coelacanth first appears in the fossil record about 400 million years ago—the same time ancient marine animals began to crawl from water to land—and disappears about 60 million years ago. Extinct, like the rest of the dinosaurs. Extinct until 1938, anyway, when a trawler, fishing off the coast of South Africa, hauled one up from the deep." Read →

Thanks for reading!

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