Letter From Our Editor 2024

This was the year I recognized myself to be an angry person. Not a little bit angry or frustrated or performatively pissed off, but truly furious. I didn’t used to be this angry all the time, that speaks to the privilege I’ve known, but now I’m so angry I’m having trouble writing for the first time in my life. I’m the guy that loves to say, “I’d rather write a bad poem than not write a poem at all” in workshops, and now my hands shake a little bit. I opened up this document to start writing this short note a month ago. Normally, once I have a couple threads together, I can weave a little bit and rush into the thank you section, which is a must because it takes dozens of people hundreds of hours to pull off an anthology like this. This time it’s first thought, only thought, and that thought is rage.

What amazes me is that you folks are a strong as you are. I don’t feel strong right now. Genocide. Multiple wars. Children figuring out who they are, what they determine to be their place in this world, and then dying because the reaction to who they are is met with threats and ridicule. Hell, even book banning has increased dramatically. I help manage a public library, and instead of developing another job program or doing something fun like teaching a kid to read, I’m training my staff how to handle book challenges. You all, though, spent another year challenging fascism, war-mongering, hatred, greed, and found ways to show us all real hope and beauty. Your defiance and love and skill were spectacular. This community is astounding when it takes care and when it behaves with respect and integrity. The talent is always there, but there’s a steel and protection to it now that is something else.

So, before I thank my Best of the Net and Sundress family, please let me thank you all for what you did this year. I’ll be strong another time, probably when you need me to, because there are few things I wouldn’t do to keep this place safe and generative, but you all were strong for me this year. The works nominated and included in this year’s anthology are brilliant pieces of a whole picture that gives me faith that even if my anger stays with me longer than I want it to, maybe I’ll find a way to use to be creative like you all. Thank you for that, not for writing and nominating these works, but for surviving and being ornery in your survival.

Thank you to Tennison S. Black and Erin Elizabeth Smith for being the powerhouses behind what we do at Best of the Net. Thank you to Sarah A. Chavez, Shipra Agarwal, Ching-In Chen, Amber Alexander, Jen Gupta, and Jillian A Fantin for everything they did this year. Thank you to our many, many readers and interns as well. This is a big undertaking, and it doesn’t get done without everyone pitching in.

We know this release is coming months after it typically would. The staff at Best of the Net had some real-life things jump up and grab us this year. As writers and artists, ourselves we know how hard it is to wait to find out if a nomination becomes an acceptance, and we do want to apologize for the extended delay. Slowing down and hitting pause for a bit was the best thing for the many people that dedicate themselves to this large endeavor, and we will always choose our people and their health first. That being said, the plan to keep things at the typical schedule for next year is already underway, and we can wait to announce new judges and accept your nominations for the 2025 release. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Finally, be good to each other this year. Know when you’re strong and when you’re not. Help everyone you can when you have strength. Eat all the pie. You deserve it. Please reach out if you need us. I can’t promise anything. I’m too angry to make promises right now, but I want to get back to my empathy and patience and maybe you know the way. You all showed me so many ways this year. Thank you.

-Darren C. Demaree