Me (second from the right, seated) as Online Editor at the planning session at the first Little Patuxent Review retreat. (Photo: Linda Joy Burke)
From an early age, I was familiar with what my father termed “feuilletons.” He had written such pieces, which combine journalistic and literary attributes and often employ wordplay, parody, paradox and hyperbole, sometimes with serious intent, in Latvia. When we came to the United States, he wrote more for a time slot given to Latvians by a Grand Rapids radio station, and both he and I, a grade-schooler, presented them. He continued writing this and other types of essays into old age. After he passed away, I found a recently written one, “Thoughts on the Mysteries of Life and Death,” among this papers.
I never gave much thought to writing essays to express my personal views. Since my school days, they had become associated with educational requirements such as the dreaded college application essay. And when I created the position of Online Editor for Little Patuxent Review a few years ago, the requirements that I established for myself. I set the goal of publishing at least one original, substantial (approximately 1000-word), substantive post once a week in the blog. And found that I could do that only if I, often in conjunction with another author, wrote many of them myself. When I left LPR, I had published 132 under my own byline alone in under three years.
In the process of churning out those essays, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed writing them. The conscious realization occurred while composing “On Being Invisible” with Pauls Toutonghi, which incorporated our shared Latvian heritage. It led to a series aimed at making marginalized segments of society more visible to mainstream America. Soon, I wanted to try the feuilleton style that I had encountered as a child, as well. One result was a fictional character, Elvira Rivers, and her tongue-in-cheek literary advice column.
I suspect that more such material from both me and my alter ego will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future, so check back again.