Have a map in your life that is meaningful? Share your story with CityLab. Shutterstock

As part of our series The Maps That Make Us, we’re asking readers to share mini-essays about a map that is especially important.

Updated: September 17, 2019 We’ve closed reader submissions at this time. Thank you to everyone who sent in a contribution. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish a selection of reader-submitted stories. Stay tuned here.

How do we find our way through the world? We follow maps, and we make our own. Sometimes we wander off the map entirely.

The special CityLab series The Maps That Make Us is creating space to talk about the life-shaping role maps have on us. In her introduction to the series, Laura Bliss writes: “Because they can be so curiously emotional, maps are as capable of directing the way we relate to our world as they are of reflecting it.”

We invite you, our readers, to share with us a short story about how a map has left an impression on you, or defined an important moment in your life.

Need inspiration? So far in the series, you can read about one artist’s quest to map the ever-changing Rio Grande. Nicole Antebi, an animator and filmmaker, writes how she was captivated by the “meander maps” of the Lower Mississippi River made by Harold Fisk, an Army Corps of Engineers cartographer and geologist. “Like the unmoving lines of a traditional map, the border imprints one idea of how the river should move onto the landscape,” Antebi writes. She created this animation of the restless river that defines a high-stakes portion of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nicole Antebi's animated map of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo's changing path
A clip of Nicole Antebi’s animation of historical meanders of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo from 1827 through 1960. (Courtesy of Nicole Antebi)

In another essay, Laura Bliss reminisces about how she unraveled the mysteries of Los Angeles from the backseat of her dad’s car using the Thomas Guide, the definitive pre-smartphone street atlas for the sprawling city. “Depicting L.A. in sweeping relief, it provided Angelenos with a common picture of the city and language for navigation. My dad has an old copy of it stashed away as a keepsake, and my generation may have been the last to absorb its innate wisdom,” she writes.

map of Los Angeles from the Thomas Guide
A page from a 1960s-era Thomas Guide. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library)

If you have more to say than a short paragraph, we’re accepting pitches for contributors who have a longer personal essay to share. Email your ideas to series editor Laura Bliss.

You can also follow the #MapsThatMakeUs series on Instagram and Twitter, and sign up for MapLab, our biweekly newsletter for map lovers.

We look forward to reading your map story.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

  2. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  3. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  4. Groups of people look at their phones while sitting in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
    Life

    How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.

    Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×