The First Two Pages: “Taking Names” by Steven Wishnia

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

It’s been an honor over the last few weeks for the First Two Pages to host contributors to the anthology Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds, edited by Kenneth Wishnia and Chantelle Aimée Osman—and it’s been interesting how many of these authors have emphasized names in their essays. Jeff Markowitz kicked things off with his essay on “The Black and White Cookie” and the question of why his characters aren’t named; Jen Conley reflected in part on her choice of the title character’s name in “Hunter”; and the story by this week’s essayist Steven Wishnia is actually titled “Taking Names.” Rabbi Ilene Schneider went in other directions with reflections on her story “Triangle,” and Steven Wishnia does that too: history, tradition, immigration, labor issues, workplace disasters, New Journalism, and more—as you’ll see below.

Speaking of those issues, Wishnia’s own background overlaps with several of them. His own journalism, for example, focused on labor and housing. He’s also the author of the novel When the Drumming Stops, the short-story collection Exit 25 Utopia, the essay collection A-String to Your Heart, and The Cannabis Companion, which has been translated into six languages.

Othe contributors to Jewish Noir II include Gabriela Alemán, Doug Allyn, Jill D. Block, Craig Faustus Buck, D.M. Evans, Robin Hemley, Ellen Kirschman, Rita Lakin, Joy Mahabir, Zoe Quinton, Eileen Rendahl, Terry Shames, A.J. Sidransky, Lizzie Skurnick, E.J. Wagner, Kenneth Wishnia, Xu Xi 許素細, Elizabeth Zelvin, and Yigal Zur. Much to enjoy!

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read offline.