“Literature offers us feelings for which we do not have to pay. It allows us to love, condemn, condone, hope, dread, and hate without any of the risks those feelings ordinarily involve.” So writes Janet Burroway in her classic textbook—and though we don’t have to pay in lived experience, the best writing resonates, creating deep feelings and pathos we carry around behind our masks. Each piece in this second anthology can trigger a heady dust devil. The work presents an emotional buffet reflecting our turbulent world: cultural realignment, racial reckoning, climate disaster, and a military defeat wrapped in a global pandemic. One bitter sandwich. One mega stomachache. And yet, we carry on seeking peace, grace, and joy. We must never forget joy. The writers deliver on some of these themes, though, while they reveal the pain, many times their own, they deliver understanding, and sometimes, joy. It’s crisp and poignant writing from the Nutmeg State that will be felt beyond our borders.

The last two years, while we hunkered down in COVID-19-imposed isolation, I’ve been fortunate to connect with Connecticut writers. Thank you to the 315 Connecticut writers who submitted over four hundred essays, stories, and poems for consideration for this year’s anthology. Our crack team of readers, genre editors, and guest editors debated their way down to the forty-two pieces here. After selection, our genre editors worked closely with a number of writers, sharpening the work.

Even under the best circumstances, publishing is exacting work. But living through a worldwide pandemic has increased the physical and psychic distance between us as the events and institutions that support the literary arts have gone online or dark. Writers work in solitary alcoves but thrive within a supportive community. I challenge all Connecticut readers and writers to support the literary arts’ return. As live, in-person events and workshops return to libraries, colleges, and bookstores, reserve your seat. Mask up and plan to attend one literary event each month. Post your reflections on the festival Facebook page. We promote statewide events each week. Dust off your literary citizenship card as we emerge from the pandemic darkness into the new-normal bright light.

I’m indebted to the visionary educators who encouraged and supported our team during the production of the anthology: Melissa Mentzer, Aimee Pozorski, and the entire English faculty at Central Connecticut State University. Tip of the hat to Robert Wolff, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and all senior CCSU administrators, particularly those involved in the CCSU Foundation. Bravo to the team at the Connecticut Literary Festival and our designer, Jillian Goeler. And to our anonymous donor, whoever they be, celebrate your wise investment in Connecticut writers. On behalf of all readers, we thank you.

The writers in the second anthology hail from Woodstock to Ridgefield, from Windsor Locks to New Haven. It’s a diverse ensemble. Thank you to all the writers who trusted us with their work, and a hearty congratulations to the writers whose work you hold in your hands.