About Us

Volume 1, Number 1
Fall 1999

River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative was co-founded in 1999 by Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman, professors at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. The journal is recognized as a national leader in publishing quality essays, memoir, and literary journalism.

River Teeth has grown from a biennial journal edited by two professors with stacks of envelopes in their offices to a burgeoning organization that continues to publish, without bias, the best of today’s nonfiction.  It also sponsors one of the most competitive literary nonfiction book contests in the nation, and in 2012, River Teeth started its annual Nonfiction Conference on the campus of Ashland University, its birthplace and residence.

In 2019, following the retirement of editors Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman, River Teeth moved its primary location to Ball State University under the leadership of Jill Christman and Mark Neely. Read more about the move to Ball State here.

Good Writing Counts and Facts Matter

From the very beginning, River Teeth has been dedicated to the simple premise that good writing counts and that facts matter.

River Teeth– a conceit that writer David James Duncan draws from in his own writing life and traces in the opening essay of our first issue– brings together several tributaries of this factual writing. One branch flows to us from the sorts of journalists who have been pushing at the edges of newsrooms for years now: demanding more space in newspapers and magazines; finding room to breathe with a story, to worry over it, and to watch it develop; buying the reporting time to seek out the details that will make it work…

Another stream springs from personal experience and the stories of family and community that bubbles into essays and memoir.  These stories are written by authors who understand their responsibility to facts as well as their commitment to literary style, all the while understanding, with Tobias Wolff, that “memory has its own story to tell.”To these two sources we add a third: the sort of thoughtful, critical essay that examines the emerging genre of literary nonfiction and that explores the impact of narrative on the lives of its writers, subjects, and readers. 

These essays examine how material is gained and how it is presented.  They draw out the implications of writerly decisions that at first seem merely stylistic, but which gain social power of problems when applied to the real lives of writers and their subjects.  They explore the impact that such stories have on the people whose lives they report.

– Editor’s Notes, River Teeth, Volume 1, Number 1

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