Wednesday
Oct132010

Letter from the Editor

Dear Reader,

One of the best articles I’ve read this month is former Collagist contributor Nick Ripatrazone’s essay at Luna Park, titled “Is There a Lit Mag in This Class?” In the essay, he advocates for the use of literary magazines in the classroom, at all levels. He writes:

The literary magazine world needs some serious self-reflection. Can the closed economy of writer-contributor-reader sustain literary magazines? John Gardner, in typical hyperbolic fashion, once lamented the miniscule number of “serious” American readers. Gardner’s rhetorical reason was to prepare future fiction writers for the seriousness of their vocation, but we need to make the same consideration of literary magazines. Where are the potential homes for an issue of Sou’wester or Tin House?  Certainly the lounges of MFA programs, university libraries, perhaps the random local public library and independent bookstores. A more likely home is the desk of an aspiring writer, though even the hope that writers will become familiar with such magazines is waning…

I return to my argument from last year: if writing programs at all levels are serious and responsible about preparing students for the business of literary magazine submitting and publishing, then they should support those magazines and integrate them into the curriculum of essential courses.

Nick goes on to illuminate several possible ways this teaching might happen, including utilizing programs like CLMP’s Lit Mag Adoption Program. Most importantly, I think his essay serves as a reminder of the importance of literary magazines not just as places for writers to publish their work but also as one of the best ways for writers just starting out—whether official students or not—to experience the area of the writing world they’re most likely to enter first, once they’re ready to begin the publishing portion of their career. That experience is invaluable: When I was in school, my fellow students who read the most literary magazines were almost always the best writers, and also the ones most likely to succeed in sending out their work, an advantage that does not diminish over time, as those people continue to read literary magazines once they’ve been introduced.

More than anything else, my first years of reading literary magazines helped me find far more writers I wanted to read and study far more often than just reading the anthologies and other books assigned in my classes would ever have, and the magazines themselves came to serve as companions and textbooks and goals for where I wanted to place my own stories. I think it’s important to remember—considering how many of us are teachers in one way or another—that the process that many of us went through was less a prescription on a syllabus and more a messy journey from writer to writer, story to poem to essay and back again. Getting literary magazines in front of our students early and often is one way to help jumpstart that process for them in a way neither we nor they can predict, but that will undoubtedly help them become the kind of writer they want to be, while also increasing the readership and success of the magazines that support us all.

If you're a teacher or professor with any interest in teaching from The Collagist and have any questions, please feel free to email me at editor@thecollagist.com. I'd be glad to help in any way I can.

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Welcome to Issue Fifteen of The Collagist!

In Issue Fifteen, we have fiction from Mary Hamilton, Ryan Call, Eric Bosse, and Lito Elio Porto, as well as an excerpt from Peter Geye’s debut novel Safe from the Sea (out this month from Unbridled Books). 

In poetry, we have poems by Ross White, Hilary Varner, Matthew Nienow, Traci Brimhall and Brynn Saito. Our non-fiction this month comes from Amy Holwerda and Jeneva Stone.

Finally, we have six book reviews this month, including reviews of Rose Alley by Jeremy M. Davis, Pee on Water by Rachel B. Glaser, The Physics of Imaginary Objects by Tina May Hall, Fame by Daniel Kehlmann, Flowing in the Gossamer Fold by Ben Spivey, and O Fallen Angel by Kate Zambreno.

As always, thanks to all of our contributors for letting us publish their fine work. Thanks also to everyone who reads the magazine, everyone who sends us submissions, and of course everyone who takes the time to post about the issue to their blogs, Facebook, or anywhere else. We appreciate your time and talents, and can't thank you enough for sharing them with us.

Sincerely,

Matt Bell
Editor
The Collagist

P.S. If you haven’t already seen, our publisher Dzanc Books is having a fall book sale. It’s a great time to pick up a couple books, if you’re looking something else to read after you finish the issue.