Twenty years ago I had an idea for a magazine that combined the swift impact of flash fiction with the true storytelling of memoir, and Brevity was born. To be honest, I expected it to last a year. Issue One had five stories and a horrible design. Issue Two didn’t look much better, and I even published myself, something any serious literary journal editor would never do. But what we then called the World Wide Web was uncharted territory, and I variously referred to my Brevity experiment back then as an e-journal, a website, a web journal, a zine. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t have a plan.

But Brevity limped along, and by Issue Four (check out the nifty Comic Sans font) none of the writers we published were close friends of mine. It started to look real. The hyper-talented Brian Doyle appeared in that issue, and became a regular in our pages. It saddens me that he is not in our 20th Anniversary Issue, except in spirit through Karen Babine’s beautiful remembrance.

But we did invite some of Brevity‘s repeat players to join us in our celebration, and if you read the specially-commissioned flash essays from Lee Martin, Diane Seuss, Brenda Miller, Sue William Silverman, Rebecca McClanahan, and Ira Sukrungruang in this issue, you may detect a common theme (or at least a common word)

As a rule, we don’t solicit work. We broke that rule for this issue. But a large part of Brevity’s mission remains providing a venue for new writers, sometimes writers who are previously unpublished, often writers who are just starting out.

In the early years, we had a staff of one. For most of our first decade, we had a volunteer staff of two. Now we have roughly a dozen volunteer staffers, hard-working, loyal, bleary-eyed, and still excited by our mission. It shocks me how much we’ve grown in twenty years: the number of submissions, the quality of submissions, the number of monthly visitors (13,000), the international audience, the growth of the blog.

I had no plan, and thus I never saw it coming.

Once or twice every year I decide to just shut the entire operation down because it takes so much time and effort, but then I hear from folks how much they value the magazine, and I say, “Okay, one year more.”

To the future.