The Nature of Things

The Next Chapter

A celebration of life’s endless twists and turns

 

By Ashley Wahl

A novelist I know and admire once compared his writing process “to driving at night with the headlights on.” I laughed because I knew exactly what he meant — that a story never reveals itself all at once — and because life seems to unfurl that way, too.

When I met Alan, for instance, we were both dating other people. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that, six years later, we would exchange rings and vows over the rush of a tumbling mountain creek. But a few weeks back, on a bright and unseasonably brisk Friday in September, that’s exactly what we did.

It seems the best stories surprise even the writer. Which brings me to another twist.

Perhaps you know that I returned to Greensboro in 2020 when Jim Dodson, my mentor of 12 years, announced he was ready to pass on the editor’s torch and take on a less demanding role with O.Henry. Prior to relocating, Alan and I were living in Asheville, where we both felt a sort of mystical attraction to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Regardless, I was excited to come back to the place I called home during my undergraduate studies at UNCG and again during this magazine’s infancy. Fortunately, Alan was up for the journey too.

Having been a part of O.Henry’s launch in 2011, you can imagine my delight to land at the helm of a magazine that had continued to evolve and yet, nearly a decade later, remained devoted to expressing its playful, authentic nature through the voices and lenses of a truly incomparable bunch of contributors. And as for Greensboro? I was awestruck. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the creative and resilient spirit of the Gate City was palpable. That O.Henry had become a trusted fixture here was a pure reflection of this city’s deepest values.

What I didn’t know when we moved here was that the mountains would draw us back so soon — just over a year later, as it turns out.

And what a year it’s been.

During my sojourn in Greensboro, I’ve had the great privilege of reconnecting with dear friends and former colleagues, discovering new favorite haunts, writing about inspiring people and places, making new friends and once again being a part of a celebrated literary magazine that people swear that they read cover to cover.

Moving here was no mistake. Of this I’m certain. But a cue from our namesake: not all stories are meant to be long. 

As you’re reading this, O.Henry is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and settling into its new digs at Transform GSO, a shared workspace located within the historic Gateway Building at 111 Bain St. Simultaneously, my new husband and I are packing up our Fisher Park home to begin our next chapter together . . . a couple hundred miles west. 

Naturalist John Muir said it best in a letter to his sister in 1873: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

I don’t know where the winding road will guide us next, but I trust the journey. And as for this magazine: Twists are a part of its DNA.

Happy anniversary, O.Henry. Thanks for the grand adventures. May your next decade continue to reawaken the spirit of William Sydney Porter with fathomless beauty, wonder and joy.  OH

Contact former editor Ashley Wahl at mystical_ash@protonmail.com.

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