’Tis the season. The season for colored lights, hot drinks, and truck commercials that put big red bows on big bad masculinity. ’Tis the season for making sure the presents you’re given confirm that your family loves you, and for reading your family’s faces as closely as possible while they unwrap the presents you’ve given them, to make sure they appreciate how thoughtful you are. Yes, ’tis the season of Christmas, of Hanukkah, of cookies, of candles, of wreaths, of dreidels, of mistletoe. Indeed, ’tis the season of holidays all around.
Trop went live eight months ago. At the time, we were a loose assembly of people who’d gotten together to put our writing side by side, in our columns. Our columns would be our silos for serialized creative writing, whether fiction or non, and they ran the gamut, from John Teschner’s meditations on city and self in Concrete Jungle to Liz Billet’s precocious open letters from a middle schooler in From the Desk of Matilda Darling. We saw Roger Sollenberger’s The New Kroger begin as a series of essays set around a rural grocery store, and become a story about a pigeon-keeper and pot-grower named Vincent. We saw William Torrey learn as much from his students as they did from him in Song of the Adjunct. We saw Hesiod James converse with Socrates about The Beatles in Charlatans of Pop. We saw A.C. DeLashmutt swing through the revolving doors of history in Welcome to Our Home. Evan Allgood’s inner infant took up residence at an artists’ colony in The Millay Diary. Chris Black affirmed his love for his fiancée in Love and Sensitivity. Cara Bayles brought unexpected corners of New England to life in Rustic North. And in Walkabout, we saw Jonathan Ward roam through China armed with a command over the language, a willingness to sleep anywhere, and the conviction forged by boundless curiosity.
The idea for Trop started with the columns—a metropolis of creative writing, with columns playing off each other, and converging to form a group voice. They are our effort to present creative writing in context. Rather than an arbitrary smattering of unrelated essays and stories pressed together between front and back covers, our creative writing is recurring, rooted, and interrelated by being Trop-specific.
When I was writing my column, Letters to Jake, about an ill-fated pursuit of the eternally receding Nevada desert, I felt as if I were writing a novel on stage. And I think writing alongside my peers encouraged me to write in a performative way. But performance is also where Trop got its start—when Roger Sollenberger, Stephan McCormick, and I put on a series of variety shows at the Metropolis Café—“the Trop”—in Milledgeville, Georgia. Back then, before Stephan and I moved to Los Angeles, we were blowing off steam. We were trying to make each other laugh in front of a few dozen college students, waiters, and locals, so that, when we sat down to our novels and poetry the next day, we would feel lighter, and freed to write better.
The online incarnation of the Trop, Trop Magazine, still has that looseness about it: a playfulness, a wry sense of humor, a willingness to write in ways that the self-seriousness of our novel writing makes difficult, in the still morning hours, with nobody listening.
But so too have we come a long way. In addition to our columns, we have Jill Riddell’s serial novel, Acupuncture After the Apocalypse, in which the greater Chicagoland area’s remaining inhabitants wonder whether or not jam makes for an appropriate house present. We have literary criticism, which often cuts a form closer to creative writing than book reviews. We’ve begun adding essay sections, with William Torrey editing our Memoir and Travels sections, and Sam Freilich editing Pop Culture. Under the watch of Jake de Grazia, our podcast section has grown extremely quickly: Life Advice Radio blew up after getting sponsored by SoundCloud, Katie McMurran is just getting going with Normal, Bel Poblador and Janice Sapigao are rocking out with Paperjam, and Stephan McCormick is overturning every stone in LA with The 101.
And we have much, much more to come, in every department listed above. But first, I want to talk about The Weather.
The Weather was one of the first ideas we had. With all these Southern Californians involved, the idea was that it would be one hell of a challenge to write about the weather every day, with our relentless sun and texture-free style of cloud cover. (I didn’t know at that time that David Lynch was years deep on the same joke.) And, it turns out, it was one hell of a challenge—I found myself looking out the window of my fifth-floor East Hollywood walk-up, wondering if I could ever really capture the essence of the word “yellow.” So The Weather grew. And it happened organically. And spontaneously. We had committed as a group to daily, short Weather posts, and Roger Sollenberger was all set to edit whatever we sent him. But. Writing about the weather was more fun to talk about than it was to do. So The Weather became something else. It became something unruly. A hive.
The Weather has been home to poetry from Elizabeth Bohnhorst, fictitious vignettes from John Kersey, gonzo journalism from Peter Nichols, family portraits from Seth Blake, fake interviews, fake books, fake crime scene investigations, real philosophy, and discussions about sexiness in Star Trek. And occasionally, someone comes along and actually writes about the weather itself. I recall cherry trees coming into bloom in Toronto, as described by Jen Hutton. But Liz Billet is our resident hardline ideologue on this. “The Weather should be about the weather,” she says.
Fair enough, Liz. Maybe it will be about the weather again soon. But you live in South Carolina where the weather’s one big dose of variety, and I’m sitting here looking out the window at a gray sky, a marine layer that’s breached its traditional boundary somewhere around… Century City? Does anyone reading this live on the west side? Where does the marine layer traditionally stop? If the marine layer comes all the way to East Hollywood, does it become fog? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But give us time, Readers. Give us time.
In the meantime, have a happy holiday. Trop is going on break until Monday, January 14th. When we come back, we’ll have a new website—another gorgeous design from Gabby Datau, some more gorgeous coding from webmaster Christian Allgood—and we’ll have new content. Lori Kozlowski will launch her column about Las Vegas. The Weather, having begun to accept submissions, will continue to evolve and surprise. And Farley Katz will share his webcomic with us, Kids Are Dumb.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to. Thank you so much for reading, and have a happy holiday.
Tom Dibblee, Editor
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.