Fall 2020



Keats Chaves, Editor
Class of 2022


My undergraduate degree is in Medieval History and German Language and Culture, which honestly explains a lot about me. But I’m learning now that there’s a huge difference between sitting behind piles of dusty books, reading about greedy kings, preventable disasters, civil unrest, wide-spread disease, and fascist regimes, and actually living through them. It has been seven months since the governor of Oregon issued a state-wide stay-at-home order, joining other states doing the same; the city of Portland, where I live, has been alternating between peaceful protests against police brutality and violent riots for almost half of that. What a unique year this has been; and, as the year heads to a close, we stand on the precipice of uncertainty.

As writers and artists, we use our craft to process our world, as evidenced by the number of us currently writing poems, stories, and essays about pandemics, quarantine, and the fragility of democracy. But with the state of the world changing every day—sometimes every hour—the idea of truly processing what we’re witnessing can be overwhelming. In her featured essay, Renee Simms acknowledges the difficulty of creating meaningful fiction in the midst of ever-shifting crisis, and offers us an unexpected solution: fairy tales. She shows us that even in their modern and hybrid forms, the fairy tale structure offers a new perspective, a point of stability that appeals to our yearning to “imagine humans as part of a longer narrative and an ineffable, magical situation.” Through the simplicity of such a familiar and unassuming form, we can convey the nuances of our lives, and the erratic changes, sudden turns, and seemingly unending downward spirals of 2020.

Once again, this year has brought many changes to the Rainier Writing Workshop community. We are excited to welcome two new faculty members: Sejal Shah and Wendy Call. The summer issue included an interview with Wendy, and in this issue, Contributing Writer Abriel Newton (2021) presents us with a profile of Sejal. This issue also features a photo-essay with highlights from the 2020 virtual residency, and we take a moment to remember former faculty member, and beloved writer and mentor, Sherry Simpson.

Finally, as always, we celebrate the accomplishments and literary roles of our RWW community members in the Publications, Announcements, Opportunities, and Literary Citizenship sections.

Thank you all for supporting Soundings, and for welcoming Hannah Markley as the new Assistant Editor, and me as the new Editor as we move forward into the end of 2020, and into a new year of community, dancing, and magic.