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SunLit Interviews

How the editor of “Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays” constructed a “body of work” in her collection

Stephanie G'Schwind pieced together elements that represent not only anatomy, but family, anxiety and social class

Stephanie G'Schwind, editor of "Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays." (Handout)

Stephanie G’Schwind is the director of the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, where she edits “Colorado Review” and directs a publishing internship for graduate students.

In addition to curating the Colorado Prize for Poetry books and, with Donald Revell, the Mountain West Poetry Series, she is also the editor of two anthologies: “Man in the Moon: Essays on Fathers and Fatherhood” and “Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays.”

The following is an interview about her work on “Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays.”

“Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays.” (Handout)

What inspired you to write this book?

I really enjoy publishing anthologies; “Beautiful Flesh” is my second. It’s so satisfying to find essays that speak to one another, to see them side by side, and watch how, when gathered together, they become something much greater than their sum. There’s a long tradition of writing on the body, and I wanted to contribute to that conversation.

I had edited and published two essays in “Colorado Review” — one on the heart and one on bones — that inspired me to pursue others to create an anthology. Originally I had planned a more general theme — the body — but as I began to collect essays on parts of the body, it occurred to me that I could create a body from the essays. And that’s when it really got fun.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Elena Ferrante, Joan Didion, Meghan Daum, Mary Cantwell, Susanna Kaysen—just to name a handful.

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

Selecting just one essay from this anthology was hard because I love them all. Lupe Linares’s essay especially resonates with me, however, because I have a great fear of losing my teeth. But I also love this piece for the way it is not, of course, just about teeth but about family, health, anxiety, as well as class.

Art from the cover of “Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays.” (Handout)

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

This whole project was so much fun, from beginning to end. But the most rewarding part is giving these writers more exposure, making it possible for more readers to encounter these fabulous essays.

All of them had been printed in journals, and it’s very possible that if one didn’t see a particular issue of a particular magazine, one may never have the opportunity to read this or that essay. But also very rewarding was seeing the magic created when all the individual essays came together to form a human body.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

The only part of this book that I wrote was the introduction, which was surprisingly difficult for me. I always find introductions challenging.

You want to get the anthology off on the right foot, to welcome your readers into the collection, and to explain why you’ve assembled these pieces and what you hope people will take away from the experience. I like to try to do this in as few pages as possible, to get out of the way so readers can get to the good stuff.

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What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

I love this fact about sinuses that I learned from Dinty W. Moore’s essay, “The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis”: there is a theory that our sinuses act as shock absorbers, protecting our heads from injury should we fall or hit them against something hard.

What project are you working on next?

Well, I’m editing the next issue of “Colorado Review” (Spring 2019), as well as the one after that and the one after that . . .  But I always have ideas in mind for future anthologies. I’d love to put one together with essays on photography, or on names and naming, or on the concept of in-between-ness.


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Buy: “Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays” at BookBar.

Excerpt: Teeth tell a tale of family history, character

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