About a year ago I received a manuscript from Mel Livatino, a stranger to me. He said Joseph Epstein, a very fine writer who had published perhaps a half-dozen essays with us, had recommended Mel send the manuscript to Notre Dame Magazine. It seemed like a Notre Dame Magazine kind of story.
The essay Mel sent us was about the distances that grow within families. He wrote mostly about his father and troubling relationships with his own sons. It was called “Wintry Rooms of Love,” and a few of you wrote us to say it was the best piece you’d ever read in this magazine.
In our winter issue we published another Livatino essay, “Dogged by the Dark,” a meditation on God and doubt. Both stories talk honestly about pain and longing and those spiritual scaffolds that undergird the human journey.
As often happens here — because of the nature of the people who write for us and the content we explore — a friendship developed between writer and editor. In fact, some of my closest friends are people I know almost entirely through their writing and our correspondence.
Mel Livatino has also heard from readers, and he has commented to me about what a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive readership we have. I joked that I’ve also heard through the years from other types of readers. But I also concurred and noted that one of the great gratifications of this job is putting our readers in touch with the writers who contribute to this magazine. Very good things happen in these transactions.
I do think there is “a Notre Dame Magazine kind of story,” although I’ve never been able to define it — and people do ask. Such stories reflect the institution, though, and carry the values, explorations and truths of the place. They speak of Notre Dame and the kinds of conversations that happen here. People seeking and people sharing.
One of the aspects I most like is that those who write for us come here because they have something to say, and it doesn’t matter if they are prestigious authors or have never written before. The magazine provides a place for them to tell their stories, to open up, to explain, illuminate or question.
I chose this line of work for several reasons, but one of the most meaningful to me was that act of sharing, of trying to make sense of something and taking that examination to readers who might find resonant chords in their own lives.
We do this in print four times a year, and we’re growing our website with personal essays and other life stories. We invite you not only to look there but also to add your own voice. The standards are a little different than you’d find with a print quarterly. But the sharing among writers, editors and readers can be every bit as meaningful.