You Must Be This Tall To Ride is my attempt at adding a little credibility to the “coming of age” genre. Whenever I even bring up the phrase “coming of age” people stare at me as if they expect me to burst out a Jonas’ Brothers song or blab on and on about the most recent episode of The O.C. People forget that some of America’s greatest novels fit into this category as well: Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher In the Rye, The Bell Jar.
After months of reading, I compiled some of the best “coming of age” stories I could find; stories by Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Michael Martone, Antonya Nelson, Ben Percy, just to name a few. Then, I asked the writers to write a short essay explaining how his or her particular story was written. On top of that, I asked for a writing exercise.
Essentially I wanted the anthology to be a kind of “one-stop-shop” for all writers interested in all genres. Aside from “adding credibility to the genre,” the “coming of age” theme functions as a jumping off point, a little common ground for us to begin.
Thanks to the contributors, the book turned out great, and while some stories are published here for the first time, others were previously published in a wide range of publications from The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Pushcart Prize anthologies, among other places.
I went into this project wanting to attract the largest audience possible. While this particular anthology is great for the creative writing classroom, I also want it to serve as a resource for all students who are most likely “coming of age” themselves. I want the book to serve as a guide to writing, while simultaneously giving the complete text of stories and a “behind the scenes” look made available by the authors’ essays.
But I didn’t want the stories to end with the last page.
I’ve created an online literary magazine that will accept submissions for fiction and nonfiction related to the “coming of age” theme. It’s a bit risky, I’ll admit: in some ways, the genre is one big cliché waiting to explode. But what I’m interested in are those stories that transcend beyond common tropes—beyond the breakup, the losing of one’s virginity, the last football game of the season—in order to share something new and heartfelt with the reader.
Submission guidelines are available at our new website. We look forward to reading your work!