Just the Fiction, Ma’am

Lisa Torcasso Downing. Editor extraordinaire.
Lisa Torcasso Downing. Editor extraordinaire.

At first sight, Lisa Torcasso Downing does not appear to have magical powers. She cooks for her family, drives a minivan, and serves on her community’s theater board. However, put a piece of fiction in front of her and you will understand her true calling. Everyone has an opinion about fiction, a few have an educated one, but Lisa understands fiction down to its core. She plays upon its filaments like a harpist; she calculates its trajectories like Euclid; she perceives its hidden treasures like a prophet.

But more than that, she is a teacher. Send your story into her dojo and it may emerge bruised and bloodied, but study those purple marks, trace the origins of the blood, note the locations of impact, and you will see that Lisa has laid down a map that takes all your story’s strengths into account, plots them against its weaknesses, and posits an enhanced being. Send in a fighter, and she’ll send out the beginnings of a warrior. Send in a romantic, and she’ll send out the embryo of a lover. Send in a believer, she’ll return to you a budding mystic.

In a hundred years when scholars study Mormon literature of the early 2000s, they will doubtless sense the unique alloy of that period’s fiction—their sculpted paragraphs, their elegant lines, their flowing stories—but unless they read this brief paean or dig into Sunstone’s masthead, they won’t know about the unique mind that pushed these stories to their highest level.

Here’s to Lisa, Sunstone’s fiction editor. Motto: “It hurts so good.”