“This story was not driven by a bad personal experience. Well, I once had to use a motorized Roto-Rooter at my house, but that had nothing to do with it,” says senior editor Nate Blakeslee about “Everyone’s Poop”, his study of one of the great marvels of modern civilization: sewerage. But his piece is also about what happens when something goes wrong with said marvel (hence, the Roto-Rooter). As it turns out, Blakeslee’s wife is a wastewater engineer, and he was intrigued by all of her on-the-job tales. “I thought it was the kind of story that might run in National Geographic or the New Yorker,” he says. “It was a departure for me, but it gave me a chance to study something and explain how it works.”
Readers who have missed writer-at-large Sarah Bird for the past three issues can breathe easy: The Austin-based novelist has finished her latest book and is back in the saddle (see “Craigslust,”). “I’m in a semi-euphoric state right now,” Bird says of How Perfect Is That, which will be published by Knopf in May. “It’s that great golden period when you’re finished, but you’re not worried about sales. It’s all pure potential right now.” As for her back-page column, which she began writing in April 2005, Bird says she enjoys working on something that takes only a few days to finish. “But oh, no,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always believed that a columnist has a useful life of about two years!”
Linda Helton didn’t pooh-pooh the chance to accept her first assignment for Texas Monthly. “I have worked on several things related to toilets: irritable bowel syndrome, potty training, that sort of thing,” says the Dallas-based artist. So it seemed natural for her to illustrate Nate Blakeslee’s “Everyone’s Poop”. The real issue is why it took so long for her to appear in the magazine. A contributor to a number of national titles—including the Washington Post’s Sunday magazine—Helton has been freelancing for more than fifteen years. And she just happened to attend Texas Tech University with D.J. Stout, an award-winning former art director at Texas Monthly.