Farewell Letter

Goodbyes are often tricky terrain to navigate. We are caught between the intersections of looking ahead, while at the same time, drawn into the reflexive impulse to recall. . . .

Back when the earth was cooling and I was a grad student in Columbia’s MFA Fiction program, I received a phone call from the (then) Faculty Advising Editor for Hair Trigger, Ann Hemenway. That conversation would pivot my views on what was possible for me as a burgeoning writer. The edition of Hair Trigger in which I’d been published had competed nationally, maintaining its gold standard by categorically sweeping the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) awards. My story, “Fried Buffalo,” won first place in traditional fiction. I was stunned with joy and nearly speechless—partly because I was between benign reception duties at Otis Spunkmeyer Cookies and Muffins and couldn’t yell out how honored I was. The CSPA award signaled an affirmation of my writing talents, of my voice, of the stories I wanted to tell but questioned whether there was an audience with interest.

I share this knowing that my transformative memory exists solely because of Hair Trigger. With equal certainty, I’m sure there are testaments that could be given by many, many writers who are among the published alums of this anthology.

Hair Trigger has been an essential platform for the range of voices in Columbia College Chicago’s creative writing program. It has made space—without judgment, without censorship—for stories that reflect us, that challenge us, that make us uncomfortable, that arrest us within its pages.

This has been the role of Hair Trigger during its 44-year publication history. This has been its mission. The chronicled praises of CSPA judges have nodded, job well done:

CSPA, 2016 National Competition (Hair Trigger 38, Gold Medalist) from Judge’s Comments:
“Characters are the backbone of any story and the Hair Trigger writers develop their major characters in depth with the vocabulary used. This descriptive ability to vividly bring imagination to life is what constitutes good writing. . . . Each of the magazine’s writers has a unique style; it can be compared to a fingerprint, and while each is unique, their writing is outstanding.”

 CSPA, 2017 National Competition (Hair Trigger 39, Gold Medalist) from Judge’s Comments:
“I spent hours enjoying the content. The fiction writers are strong and I know I will be reading them in the future. The characters are compelling in story after story. “

CSPA, 2018 National Competition (Hair Trigger 40, Gold Medalist):
“The selections for this edition of Hair Trigger are extraordinary. I was thoroughly engrossed in the stories, each more riveting than the last. Hair Trigger is a par excellence literary magazine that others should set as their standards.”

“Impressive does not even begin to describe the contents of this edition of Hair Trigger. The writing has heart, passion, and teeth. Its story lines are that of superior quality. The voices contained within its pages are fresh, familiar, and provide insights into private rooms which most people would not have access to, or let alone know of their existence. It contains conversations some would deem exclusive, yet these are universal dialogues.”

Hair Trigger’s stellar record includes an estimated 38 CSPA gold and silver crown awards won for the anthology, and well over 400 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place honors collected for individual works of fiction, creative nonfiction, experimental fiction, essay writing, and photography.

The celebrated achievements of the magazine were made possible because of the innovative work of the late John Schultz, originator of the Story Workshop® approach to the teaching of writing, whose early vision of the program included the Hair Trigger anthology. John’s pedagogical practice encouraged imaginative seeing-in-the-mind for student writers on the precipice of creating art in the moment, seated in a semi-circle, telling their stories out loud and giving life to their characters. The stories produced in Story Workshop and other writing classes were authentic and evocative—the best of which were selected for publication in Hair Trigger.

There are many to thank for the 40-plus years of Hair Trigger’s successes. Namely, the fiction faculty, whose workshops—along with John—became the birthplace of many Hair Trigger stories. Without the instructor’s whole-hearted, student-centered commitment, a nationally celebrated Hair Trigger would not have been possible. The list of faculty is longer than space will permit. Some of those to be honored include the late Betty Shiflett—mentor, author, Master Teacher—for her years of dedicated service; Randall Albers, former department chair and our well-spring of inspiration; Shawn Shiflett, Chris Maul Rice, Patty McNair, Ann Hemenway, Andrew Allegretti, Gary Johnson, Eric May, Sam Weller, Joe Meno, and Don DeGrazia.

Many honors of appreciation to the scores of writers who gave us the amazing stories that distinguish our journal, and to the artists who lent their talents to produce stunning book covers.

A special thanks to the Friedman family for their generous gift of the David Friedman award.

And we are grateful to the members of Columbia College Chicago’s administration(s) who continued to support this award-winning journal: Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, President  and CEO; Steve Corey, Dean, Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Pegeen Reichert Powell, Chair of the English and Creative Writing Department.

Thank you to the many acquisition and production editors for their meticulous hours of work on the anthology; Managing Editor, Linda Naslund, during the earlier production years of Hair Trigger, who worked tirelessly to deliver a quality magazine, while also performing double-duty as grant writer to secure financial support for Hair Trigger’s production; and more recently, Cora Jacobs, whose creativity and oversight has ensured that we present our absolute best; and Devon Polderman, who assisted in assembling the talented team of editors.

And finally, thank you, our dear audience, readers, and friends. Thank you for embracing our work for over 43 years, for holding Hair Trigger close, for hearing our voices and offering resounding support. Thank you for giving our stories a home. For you, we will keep writing, and in so doing, have faith that the crossroads of change do not always mean goodbye.

The college’s new print journal, Allium, will debut in 2021, featuring fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that reflects the range of genres in the creative writing department. We look forward to what comes next and the possibilities it brings with your continued support.


Alexis Pride
Faculty Advising Editor
Associate Professor
English and Creative Writing