Last year, at the Boston University Narrative Arc conference (one of my favorite of these journo gatherings), Jeff Sharlet, Neil Shea & Darcy Courteu sat on a stage in front of a not-so-large audience, talking about an Instagram revolution. They were not looking to share food porn, nor adorable pictures of themselves or their offspring or their feline companions. They were journalists who observe their world, and whose work can sometimes take them to distant worlds (whether Iraq in midday or a New England Dunkin Donuts at 3 am), and they watch with a close eye. They listen with a close ear. But what to do with these stories, how to share the stories of the lives, loves, losses they encountered? Answer: iPhone camera. Visceral quick writing. Way more characters than Twitter allows. All the stuff that doesn’t fit into the story you were sent to get. I was inspired, but not quite to action. Til now. Happy to jump onto Jeff & Neil’s platform and with the help of editor Paul Reyes over at Virginia Quarterly Review (one of my favorite publications: solid, serious and sumptuous all), kick off #VQRTrueStory.
My week takes you to the cotton fields of Punjab, her hand upon mine. Buries your nose in live soil and let’s you feel the heat of a wood fire, the smoke in your lungs. It sets you at the feet of a girl in Bihar, who is reaching, reaching up.