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  • Sara Ryan

call for submissions: bliss issue

Throughout this tumultuous past year, we have all likely been searching for joy, bliss, and slivers of peace. Where have you found it? Where have you looked? For Iron Horse’s theme issue in 2021, we want to revel in your bliss along with you as you show us what it looks like, tastes like, sounds like. Maybe it’s the quiet splash of a current, the clean gasp of air on a mountaintop, a Netflix binge-watch, a bowl of cookie dough ice cream, a package being dropped on your doorstep, the careful ripping-open of an envelope, hearing your favorite song spill from the window of a car passing by. We want all your forms of bliss.

As you share your bliss with us through your poems, stories, and essays, we want to remind you that our theme issues are all about interpretation. Treat this theme as an ekphrastic—show us bliss from your corner of the world, not the bliss we know and expect (though who are we to deny this bliss either). Maybe knowing bliss requires its lack, or perhaps you are looking back at bliss from a time when it is woefully missing. Bliss might be hovering somewhere in the future, beyond the inevitable difficulties of now. Or maybe we find bliss in a fiction we wish was our own.

When looking for images of bliss for this call, we stumbled upon the photograph “Bliss,” the default computer wallpaper of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, taken by Charles O’Rear in 1996. It is estimated to be the most-viewed photograph in the world, with billions having viewed the iconic cloud-streaked sky and impossibly green rolling hills. Folks travel from around the world to view this hill in California’s Wine Country, to see bliss for themselves. We’re thinking a lot about why Microsoft chose this image and the recognizable feeling it inspires—its universality, its quiet peace, its unbelievability, its transcendence across decades. Searching for bliss led us to this unexpected place, and perhaps it will do something similar for you.

All this to say that bliss is hard to define. We recognize that it’s so individual and we are looking for that individuality in your creative submissions. This past year has made bliss difficult to find, or has obscured it with headlines and grief, but for this issue, IHLR wants to carve out a space for joy: thrill, pleasure, optimism, joie de vivre, delight, rejoicing, gratitude, love, freedom, laughter, life.

Our submission window is open from October 15th to November 15th, submit at


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