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Dear SmokeLong Friends,

art by Marty D. Ison
artwork by Marty D. Ison
When I first learned to play guitar an embarrassing number of years ago, well over half the songs I learned to play were by Neil Young. They were easy four-chord songs and it didn't hurt that I liked Neil Young a hell of a lot. Last night, after finishing the coding of all the pages for this issue, I settled in to watch Jonathan Demme's "Neil Young: Heart of Gold." And for the first time I understood that no matter how many guitar hacks like me there are strumming half the "Harvest" album and doing their best crooning whine, these songs belong uniquely to Neil Young. In actually seeing the mannerisms, the tics, the face-straining efforts, I felt his voice, his truth, in a way I'd never felt it before.

Why do I mention this? Shortly before watching the film, the fiction writer Ellen Parker asked me what some of my favorites were in this issue. I had a hard time answering that at first. I surfed back through pieces and started saying things like "Joe Young blows my mind" or "Lisa Buchanan's rhythm is incredible." But I found myself saying something like that for every single piece. And because I know Ellen and see pieces of her truths in life, I recognize specific pieces in her writing that nobody else in the world could possibly have written. Nobody. The more I looked at the pieces—the more I thought about what makes them special—the more I realized that this was true of every piece in the issue. Each author brings his or her own truth to the writing in a way that nobody else, even if equipped with the proper four chords (or eight! or twelve!), could possibly write. Could anyone other than Jai Clare have written "Memory of Sky?" What about "Man and Dog?" Think anyone other than Girija Tropp could have written it? I certainly couldn't have written "Miracle," but Chad Simpson could, and thank God he did.

Our incredible guest editor, Katrina Denza, mentions in her interview that "as I re-read the stories for this issue: I got teary." Why? Because just as Neil Young is the only one with Neil Young's voice but connects with millions when he speaks his truth, so, too, do these authors. In writing their truths as only they can write them, they connect to truths more universal: pain, love, fear, beauty, joy, despair. And those chords resonate deeply in us. Some of us get teary, and hallelujah to that.

As editors, it is our job to be miners for hearts of gold. We are lucky enough to present twenty such hearts here.

Enjoy!



Dave Clapper
Founding Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly

June 15, 2006
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