Editor’s Note, Issue #27

In the summer of 2010, I moved from New York City back to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Having recently published a novel and a collection of short stories, I hoped to contribute something to the literary culture of Birmingham. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if there was a literary culture in Birmingham. When I had left seventeen years prior, there was not much.

Upon returning, I found that The University of Alabama-Birmingham had two journals that have shown longevity–Birmingham Poetry Review and PMS, (now Nelle). An organization called Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO) was showing great promise with creative writing workshops for youth based on the model of Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia. I thought that if I could pull together an online journal that would focus on Southern writers, it might make an impact.

I have been thrilled with the response. After 27 online issues and 4 print issues, it’s time for me to move on. My teaching and writing responsibilities have made it too difficult to keep up the quality of work with STR that our readers have come to expect. I have had help from co-founders Mike and Matt, some of my colleagues at UAB, and an intern or two here and there, but all of us have a lot on our plate. It just isn’t possible right now for any of us to make STR our priority.

The website will remain active indefinitely, as long as I have the little bit of cash it takes to renew the domain every year. If my life looks a little different in the future, I would consider relaunching or rebranding the website. For right now, though, we are no longer accepting submissions.

It’s been a great run. Please enjoy this final (?) online issue.


Editor’s Note, Issue #26

We hope everyone has had a happy Easter or whatever spring fertility ritual you participate in annually. As we recover from the sugar coma of the post-Easter candy sale at our local Walgreen’s, we welcome a new member to our small faculty, intern Nicole Gibson. Nicole will be helping us out with reading first round submissions and also dusting off our social media accounts to keep them more active.

Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/steeltoereview/

Now, thanks to Nicole’s efforts, we also have presence on Instagram and Twitter (see links below)

In this issue:

  • Fiction by Dan Leach, Charles Israel, H R Green, Nancy Bourne, and Katie Burgess.
  • Poetry by Bobby Steve Baker, Jon Riccio, Anis Shivani, Bonnie Walker, Joe Albanese, Susan L. Leary, and Stephen Reilly.
  • Creative Non-fiction by Ashley Shaw and William C. Crawford.
  • Visual Art by Allen Forrest and Mark Wyatt.


–M. David Hornbuckle, editor

Editor’s Note, Issue #25

Greetings from the great desert of Alabama where it hasn’t rained in (insert Biblical measurement) of time.  We even had a big rain prayer day at Railroad Park, but it didn’t take. God is still angry at us for electing a misogynist, racist, xenophobic, half-wit to the White  House. Well, despite all that, we all seem to have survived Thanksgiving and maybe this tasty little collection of literary comfort foods will get you through to the end of the year.

In this issue, we have fiction from: Michael Hammerle and Barbara Nishimoto; creative non-fiction from Terry Barr, Cameron Hunt McNabb, Megan Newcomer, and Renae Tucker; poetry from Keith Donnell, John Sullivan, Charles Kell, Daniel Moore, Jim Murphy, KA Webb, Hilary Sideris, and Bill Pruett. You’ve seen a few of these names in our TOC before, a couple of them more than once. There are old friends we haven’t had an opportunity to publish before and new friends that we welcome to the family. This is the kind of list we like to see.

Update on the Print Issue

I know some of you are wondering what is up with our Print Issue #4. We are still going over the proof copy with our detail-oriented copy editors, and we hope to have the final manuscript to the printer soon. The t-shirts are printed and look fab.

It’s still not too late to donate to our “Go Fund Me” campaign and reserve an advanced copy.


They will be printed by the end of the year, we assure you, and we HOPE to mail out all the contributor copies by Christmas. Fingers crossed.

–M. David Hornbuckle

Editor’s Note – Issue #24

It was winter, and then before we knew it, it was spring. It’s taken us a bit longer than usual to get this new issue out (I have a feeling this isn’t the first time I’ve said that…or the last). Something or other always seems to get in the way. We have many excuses, but they aren’t very interesting, and anyhow, the thing is now done. We think it’s pretty good including writing from old friends and new voices.

This time we have fiction from Tim Nalley, Adam Van Winkle, Gershon Ben-Avraham, and Leland Pitts-Gonzalez. Our poetry section features Ashley M. Jones, James Valvis, James Alfier, Robert Eastwood, and Allan Peterson. In addition, we have some vivid rural photographs from William Crawford.

Now that we’re all caught up with our online issue, we are starting production on Print Issue #4 next week. We’re still taking submissions for at least another month though, so keep ’em coming.

In addition, our fundraising efforts for the print issue are resuming. We expect to have cover art completed soon, and we’ll share it with you when possible. To donate to our campaign and reserve a copy of the upcoming print issue, go here:  https://www.gofundme.com/kyhb4524

–M. David Hornbuckle


Editor’s Note – Issue #23

This might just be the best issue yet. It’s certainly a big one, mainly because we got a little behind schedule on posting it, and meanwhile, great submissions kept coming in. We have some real heavy hitters in this issue. There’s new fiction from Diane Thomas-Plunk, Dan Leach, Sean Jackson, Mindy Friddle, S. F. Wright, and William Garland, plus another essay by our frequent contributor Terry Barr. In the poetry section, we have work from Scott Howdeshell, J. G. McClure, D. R. Goodman, Billy Palmer, Mercedes Lawry, Judith Skillman, Suzanne Rhodenbaugh, and Marc Harshman. We are especially pleased to feature visual art in this issue by two old friends Merrilee Challiss and Panhandle Slim.

A couple of announcements:

  • We are currently looking at submissions for online issue #24, which we estimate will be out in March or April.
  • We will start taking submissions for our print issue #4 in January. If you’ve been published in one of our online issues in the past year, your work will automatically be considered for the print issue, but space is limited.

All of us here at Steel Toe hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving holiday and will have an even more wonderful winter holiday season. We have a stack of papers to grade that is taller than we are, so that’s the end of the transmission for now. See you soon.

–M. David Hornbuckle

Editor’s Note – Issue #22

Greetings lovers of fine literature. School is back in sesh, football is in the air, and here in the Blue Dot in September it is just as hot and muggy as it was mid-July. I think I might get the vapors. Before that happens, let me quickly tell you what we have for you this time around.

For starters, we have new fiction from Robert Hunter Whitworth, Dylan Henderson, Christopher Chilton, and Katherine West. We also have some creepy creative non-fiction from Joy Krause and poetry from Mario Duarte, Daniel Moore, Paul Piatkowski, Carrie Conners, Dan Jacoby, and Symphony Romaine. To top it all off, our old pal David Thompson sent us some great photos from his recent travels around the south, and we share them with you.

But wait, you say. Late summer issue? I thought you were quarterly, and you just came out with that whole New Orleans thing like a month ago! Yes, but we got enough really good submissions recently that were not New Orleans-related that we decided not to wait another 90 days. We love you that much.


Yrs. Trly.,

M. David Hornbuckle

Editor’s Note – Issue #21

New Orleans has always been a special city for me. During the summers when I was in college, dating a girl from Pascagoula, it seems I would end up in the Big Easy every other weekend, not doing anything in particular except wandering the French Quarter, drinking coffee and listening to the music that came from every available audible space. For me, coming from a smallish city in Alabama, it was the nearest thing to what I imagined life in New York or Europe might be like. Later, when I lived in New York, I appreciated the differences, the heat and the ghosts and the part of it that is Southern but also not Southern. We in the South are very fond of our ghosts, even the ones that don’t show us in the best light. They walk among us constantly reminding us of our checkered history.

In these ways, New Orleans has the essence of home for me, but it is also exotic and exciting and liberating. I’ve never really gotten over my fascination with it, and it has been the backdrop for much of my own writing. I suppose if I ever leave Birmingham again, I could easily find myself living there. Some of my friends have moved there and since moved back to wherever they came from. Other friends are still there.

In this issue, you will read short stories and creative non-fiction pieces that use New Orleans as a backdrop or as an explicit topic, and you will find work from writers who currently live in New Orleans. We are proud to say that two of these pieces are from young writers who are currently studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). We are always pleased to help get young, talented writers a leg up, and these two are certainly deserving of the attention.

To change the subject only slightly, I wish to make some comments about current events. As the editor of a magazine that deals with Southern culture and Southern identity, I think it is my duty to be a part of the ongoing conversation about current issues, especially in light of the recent massacre in Charleston, S.C. and its aftermath, and in particular the symbols that represent our unfortunate past.

First of all, I want to say that I’m happy to see that same-sex marriages are once again legal in Alabama, and everywhere else in the country for that matter. There is still resistance in some corners of our state, but here in Birmingham, I think most of us are ready to embrace the new normal. With the recent Supreme Court rulings and the Confederate battle flags coming down in many places, I am actually feeling more patriotic than any time in recent memory. It seems that this Great American Experiment might actually be working, still imperfectly, but making steady progress. Now, if someone would just do something about Donald Trump… (okay, I stole that joke from NPR, but you have to admit it’s a good one).

As I am composing this, we are coming up on the 4th of July weekend, and, appropriately enough, my students in the Early American literature class I teach are reading excerpts from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography this week. We talked about what Paine and Jefferson might think about some of these current issues, and we concluded that Paine, at least, would see these changes as positive. He was not a religious man, so we can hope that if he were dropped into a modern world, he would not have all the hangups that the right-wing evangelical factions have about modern sexuality. He was also an abolitionist. We speculated that if he knew what happened over the two hundred years after his death, with the states of the Confederacy seceding from the union and the role that the institution of slavery played in that, he would see little reason to celebrate that secession 150 years after the war ended. He came to the United States from England in 1774, stirred by the spirit of revolution. He saw little value in clinging to a past where Americans were politically enslaved by England (a metaphor he utilized in his writing), so it’s easy to imagine that he would see little value in clinging to a past that represented actual slavery.

Jefferson, on the other hand, is more complicated. He was a Southerner and a slave owner. Even though he initially wanted to include a statement against slavery in the Declaration of Independence and was voted down, it’s possible that he was acting purely out concern for how history would view him. He probably thought history would pay little attention to his home life. He was a great man in many ways, and a liberal thinker, but it is hard to say what he would think about the history-making changes we are living through right now. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think many of us who have grown up in the South are familiar with how complicated it can be to come to terms with our history. To perhaps put it a little too coyly, issues of race in the South are never completely black and white. They are complicated.

Speaking of NPR, there was an interview there this week with an African-American gentleman from Montgomery (I can’t seem to find it now, or I would post the link). He was saying that where he lives there are monuments to the Confederacy everywhere, including streets and schools named after Confederate officers. In contrast, he says, there are very few monuments to slavery and Jim Crow, which means we in the South are not really dealing with our history of terrorism and cruelty. This lack of direct acknowledgement makes it impossible for us to have a real conversation about race and what it means.

I agree with many points the gentleman from Montgomery made, but with a few caveats. I have always felt deeply that a defining aspect of Southern culture is the way we live with our history, the good and the bad of it. I’m all for taking the battle flags down from state courthouses and other official state sites, but rather than seeing its presence as a glorification of the Confederacy and all it stood for, we should see it as a recognition of one of the dark moments of our history. Even monuments that overtly glorify or romanticize the Confederate army can be seen through this filter. We are reminded that as recently as fifty years ago, many of us still thought this way. Many of us thought these monuments were a necessary and good idea. We are not so far past it.

One difference between Birmingham and Montgomery is that we do have many monuments that acknowledge the cruelty of the Jim Crow era. We have the Civil Rights Institute, which I have toured many times, often while leading student groups. Some of the exhibits are downright haunting, and I have had students say that it was disturbing and upsetting to them, as it should be. It can be a very emotional experience. Even though Birmingham as a city did not exist during the era of slavery, the connection between Jim Crow and slavery is not lost here. The exhibits in the museum make the connection very clear by presenting a chronological history of civil rights abuses.

Downtown Birmingham is a living monument to the Civil Rights era, which means it is actually giving direct address to the issues to which the Civil Rights era was responding. So, the upshot is that yes, we should take down the battle flags from our government buildings because we don’t need our city and state governments even seeming to openly endorse a faction from our past that defended the institution of slavery. The other public monuments to the Confederacy should remain as reminders of where we have been, even where we have been recently, how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Perhaps we can change out the plaques on some of these monuments to recontextualize them and acknowledge our more modern understandings of them. But we should also continue to add new monuments that acknowledge the ugly side of that history, that acknowledge the lynchings and the bombings that served the masters of physical and economic oppression.

For better or for worse, we in the South continue to live with our history and walk among the ghosts of the past. Flannery O’Connor called the South “Jesus Haunted,” which may be true, but it is haunted just as much by our history of slavery and terrorism against our own people. And even if we try to suppress them, those ghosts will not be lain to rest anytime soon.