Booklist’s review of Best American Essays 2013: “Strayed, whose best-selling memoir, Wild (2012) was the inaugural title for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, and whose popular “Dear Sugar” advice columns have been collected in Tiny Beautiful Things (2012), takes the helm of this vibrant annual. In her introduction, she attests to the power source of this flexible literary form: “Behind every good essay there’s an author with a savage desire to know more about what is already known.” Her 26 engrossing selections begin with Poe Ballantine’s knockout “Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel,” a tale about his struggles to get by in California during the 1987 stock market crash. In “The Exhibit Will Be So Marked,” Ander Monson comes to some surprising conclusions as he considers mixtapes versus mix CDs, the lives and deaths of trees, and the mysterious Paulding Light in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Charles Baxter recounts a harrowing limo accident, and Megan Stielstra evokes a blizzard of emotions in her distilled drama of postpartum depression. Also including essays by Alice Munro, Walter Kirn, Zadie Smith, and Dagoberto Gilb, Strayed does this sterling series proud.”

On gratitude

There is a poem that I really like called Flat: Sentences from the Prefaces of Fourteen Science Books. It’s by Bruce Covey. It’s funny. It’s about gratitude.

bestI’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. This week I found out that my essay, Channel B, would be included in The Best American Essays 2013. I read the email on the sidewalk, on the way to pick up my son from school. I read it again. And again. Since then, there’s been a lot of excitement. A lot of screaming, and bourbon, and jumping up and down, and my five-year-old saying, “Why are we jumping?!” while he’s jumping, and I’m just so goddamn grateful.

As my editor, the mighty Roxane Gay, recently wrote in a tribute to Rumpus editor Isaac Fitzgerald: “There’s always a story behind the writing.” The story behind Channel B involves many people, and I’d like to give them both credit and thanks. To do so, I’m going to borrow from Bruce Covey’s lovely, simple structure.

ZOMFG: Sentences from the Prefaces of Fourteen Love Letters

1. Roxane’s work challenges me to see our beautiful, messy world as something so much bigger than myself. Having her as the editor for this thing – knowing that she was on the other end – made me try to climb higher.

2. Stephen Elliot, Isaac Fitzgerald, and the staff of The Rumpus have created an amazing home for writers and, more importantly, readers. Every day, I am moved and challenged. It has helped me heal. Thank you to all who’ve shared their work there.

3. Gina Frangello is the one who first told me to read The Rumpus. She’s also the first editor, at Other Voices, to show me that my work had value.

4. I wrote this essay, as I write most of my essays, for Chicago’s 2nd Story storytelling series, where I’ve been lucky enough to work for over a decade. The storytellers there inspire the living hell out me. Here—listen.

5. The Ragdale Foundation gave me what every writer so profoundly needs: the time and space to sit. Quietly. And, like, think.

6. I first read this piece to a roomful of mothers at my son’s school. To have the support of that community, for this subject matter, was a gift. Also: we had a lot of wine that night. It was awesome.

7. I learned how to write from the faculty in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. The fact that I found this place at nineteen is proof that the universe is magical.

8. I continue to learn how to write from my students in The Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Their intelligence, vision, and discipline are contagious. Look out, future.

9. There was this ridiculous moment in Target when I was eight months pregnant, standing in the baby section with my cousin Aaron and his dad, my Uncle Chuck, who was visiting from Alaska. Aaron was like, “Buy Megan a shower gift!” and Chuck was like, “What do you need?” and I was like, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT DO BABIES NEED MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE.” Aaron took one look at my face and took over. “You need a monitor.” I reached for one with just audio, and he swatted my hand. “OH NO,” he said. “THIS BABY NEEDS NIGHT VISION.”

10. Jeff Oaks has been my reader for many years, and my friend for longer.

11. My husband takes our kid on adventures every Saturday. He gives me what every writer so profoundly needs: the time and space to sit. Quietly. And, like, think. Also: when I texted him to say I was going to be included in The Best American series, he sent me ten different gifs of people dancing. Some of them might have been dirty.

12. I’ve received some wonderful emails from moms who’ve connected with this subject matter. I’ve received emails from dads, too, and people who don’t have kids, yet or ever. Thank you for reaching out across the void. Here is my hand, reaching back.

13. Cheryl Strayed’s words have been a friend to me during some very dark moments. They’ve been a kick in the ass when I most needed it. They’ve taught me, opening the world to ideas and lifestyles and questions I hadn’t considered, and to think that my essay might have the chance to lift even one person in the way that her’s have lifted me is mind blowing.

14. Caleb is five years old now. As I type this, he’s sitting next to me, fighting with the letter N. He dislikes N’s for some reason. He says, “Who needs N?” He says, “How’d the writing go today, Mommy?” He says, “You’re the best thing in my whole life ever.” Or maybe that’s what I say to him.