Notes from the Editor: Throughsmoke’s Power Over Perception

Much to my pleasure and joy, a short nonfiction piece titled “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” made it through the final cut and landed in the interns’ laps this semester. Beautifully written, it explores the author’s growing relationship with scent and perfumes. The piece had been one of the manuscripts I screened last semester, and it drew me in with its first line: “In a dark time, I am in love with something frivolous.” Hook, line, and sinker.

It’s a strange thing, the effects a story can have on you once you devote so much time to it. I come together with fellow interns weekly to discuss the intricacies of this collection of notes, (much like the notes of perfume, quick and fleeting but often lingering.) I comb over the author’s words in my own time, bundled up in bed with the manuscript balancing on my knees, and I leave each encounter with her writing in a trance of sorts, feeling light like the wisps of scent the author has put so much time into describing, looking at the world, for at least a few minutes afterward, not with my eyes but with my nose.

Before starting edits on this manuscript, I had never concerned myself too much with the world of perfume. I only owned four different bottles of perfume, purely because they were released by Taylor Swift, my purchase of them having nothing to do with the smell of the liquids at all. But now, whenever I find myself at Target or TJ Maxx, I pick up the strips of paper and spray them with the different bottles of perfume. I try to pick up the different notes of scents coming from the perfume—grapefruit lingering in one titled “air,” notes of jasmine in the bottle designed in the shape of a woman’s handbag.

Even away from the confines of perfume, I greet new classmates and subtly smell the air around them, familiarizing myself with their preferred detergent. I arrive home and am momentarily stunned by the scent of apples overcoming the room, my sister working her way to homemade applesauce. I wear a man’s coat and inhale the faint scent of mahogany and cigarette smoke. Smells that define a person or place or thing, all suddenly at my attention, and all because of an essay in notes.

While the release date of “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” is yet to be announced, I encourage you to keep your eye out for it. It’ll be worth the wait, and your sense of smell will never be the same.

Written by Ashley Thorpe
Originally posted March 22, 2018
Images via

First Titles in Short Nonfiction Series Announced

Last year in May and June, New Rivers held its first ever Short Nonfiction call, looking for manuscripts of creative nonfiction, essays, and mixed-genre work 70 – 120 pages in length. Our goal was to find important works that live in that nebulous mid-range—too long to be short, but too short to be long—and give them voice. We received too many great submissions—more than we have room for in our publishing slate. We were blown away by the fantastic works we received, and we’re hoping to receive as many great submissions when we re-open the call in April.

New Rivers is excited to announce the two manuscripts that were selected for publication from this first call. Elizabeth Mosier’s The Pit and the Page: Archaeology, Memory, and Home and Jehanne Dubrow’s throughsmoke: an essay in notes will be the first two titles in this series.

In the authors’ words:

image via marmotollie,

The Pit and the Page

My interest in objects and their stories—cultivated at the Independence National Park Archaeology Laboratory in Philadelphia, where for seven years I processed Colonial-era artifacts from The President’s House and National Constitution Center sites—inspired this book of essays. The collection draws upon the terminology and processes of archaeology as a framework for presenting personal memories and social history, in order to illuminate the emotional process by which the archaeological record is formed. In recovering artifacts from my past, I seek to reconstitute “home” in the wake of my mother’s devastating memory loss.


image via


We are wooed by perfume. It vexes us. The fleeting habits of fragrance charm and irritate—What is that delicious smell? What does it make me remember? What does it make me taste? Why does it disappear just when I begin to feel it is part of me? This manuscript explores the question of how I came to be obsessed with the art and science of perfume and compares my love of perfumery with my love of poetry. The book includes interviews with other poets who collect perfume, with scientists, with a literary scholar who studies the role of scent in the French Symbolists, and with the founder of perfumed soap company. throughsmoke frequently looks to classical and contemporary literature, philosophy, and pop culture for answers to the questions: How do we become obsessed with something as seemingly frivolous as perfume? And why might a love of the frivolous be necessary in dark times such as these?

We’re excited to welcome Elizabeth and Jehanne to the New Rivers family!

Expect these publications to drop at AWP 2019 in Portland!

Want to be cool like Elizabeth and Jehanne? Submit your short mixed-genre and nonfiction works when our submission call re-opens in April!

Image Credit:
“Colonial Archaeology” by marmotollie on deviantArt