Interview With Glint Literary Journal

“A gleam; a faint or momentary appearance of light or of some lustrous object.”

“To move quickly, esp. obliquely; to glance aside.”

The Oxford English Dictionary

Glint Literary Journal first flared into existence in the spring semester of 2010.  Three years later, I hold a copy of its inaugural issue in my hands and study the cover image:  a single matchstick.  Vapor tendrils—rather than flame—issue from its head.  Against a pearl-grey backdrop, the swirls seem too dark, too viscous.  They want to be curtain-sheer, or, else, ectoplasm if only that ghost-substance were more diaphanous, more unbelievable.  I am reminded of the photomanipulations of Federico Bebber.  His female models seem to be turning into cosmos.  The first Glint cover suggests a similar nascence.  The very essence of becoming.

When I think of the original staff, a group of students who approached a faculty member with the merest glint of inspiration, I wonder if they could have envisioned the ways in which their desire would linger despite the evanescent nature of the word they chose for their title.

“In an age of email, movies designed on computer screens, and a billion people sharing their thoughts through Twitter tweets, it becomes harder to imagine what impact our literary journal will have,” wrote graduate-student editor, Antony Grow.  “Will we begin a journey or simply disappear into the ether of coded internet oblivion?”

In the introduction to that issue, faculty advisor Dr. Kim Kirkpatrick spoke of the staff’s desire to “ignite” an inextinguishable “arts fire.”  That first year, the journal was created by members of her Senior seminar.  Eleven undergraduates earned course credit for their editorial efforts.  One graduate student mastered the web to fulfill his pledge that the journal would not dissipate as vaporous substance tends to do.

After that first year, the undergraduates matriculated.  Dr. Kirkpatrick moved to the west coast, and only Antony Grow remained from the original kindlers to carry on the journal’s flame.  Departmental administrators at Fayetteville State University, recognizing Glint’s promise, asked me if I would take over as advisor.   As one of the school’s three professors active in the teaching and publishing of creative writing, I certainly had the aesthetic credentials, but not the technical experience to keep the journal alive in electronic form.

The department would not be able to provide funding for a second print edition—and we would not be able to operate as a class in future.  Therefore, I could not count on a class grade to motivate students to staff the journal.  Fifteen undergraduates attended our first interest meeting; however, by the time submission packets were shared and evaluated, only two remained on staff to toil alongside my lone graduate assistant.  I suspect that the others were simply overwhelmed as the sheer number of submissions suggested that Dr. Kirkpatrick’s “art fire” had conflagrated.  We had too much work for such a small staff—although the undergraduates, Nena Callaghan and Nike Pascal, were intrepid.  It became clear that Antony would need to perform all web-mastering, and I would end up taking on much of the editorial responsibilities.

We needed an entire brigade of readers and, so, I became Managing Editor for the next issue in order to oversee an editorial board that included faculty members as well as undergraduate and graduate students—and, for issue 4, I also invited two students from the Cross Creek Early College program to join us.

When I was an undergraduate at Hollins College (now University), I had been granted the opportunity to work as an editorial assistant for The Hollins Critic.  I still include that experience on my curriculum vitae so I am committed to involving students in Glint’s ongoing, publishing venture.  During semesters when I teach creative writing, I share some of the editorial process with the class—as I am teaching them about the business of publishing along with the usual strategies of composing and critiquing imaginative work.  Our department is currently expanding its professional writing programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; therefore, I expect that I’ll be able recruit more student workers in future.

However, the bulk of the work is and likely will continue to be performed by faculty members.  At least two professors are assigned to review each of the preliminary packets.  Since I am the only person who has access to the would-be contributors’ identities, I can ensure that the judging process is not unduly influenced by past publishing credits.  We look for quality in many guises.  But we’re also open to quirkery.  Some risk-taking is appreciated.  But control should also be evident.  Many journals laud diversity, some more convincingly than others.  But what exactly is meant by that word?

Some years ago, at the Sewanee Writers Conference, I listened attentively as Robert Hass instructed members of his poetry workshop to provide feedback without attempting to force their own aesthetic preferences on others’ manuscripts.  The gist: those poets who preferred spare lines and plain diction should not try to impose their predilections on poets who clearly valued lyrical language and baroque style.  The same lesson could apply to prose.  Editors should not judge the Virginia Woolfs by the standards of the Ernest Hemingways, and vice versa.

Having been exposed to this anecdote, members of Glint’s editorial board often tell me that they are casting favorable ratings on a submission that isn’t to their personal taste, because they recognize that other readers will appreciate an approach or a perspective provided by that text.   How many times have I picked up a literary journal supposed to celebrate diversity only to discover that, despite the large cast of contributors, identified in the “Table of Contents,” every poem and/or every story in an issue could have been constructed by the same person?   That is an impression that I aim to avoid when I am making final selections.  Do I really want three reliably rude narrators to appear in one issue?  And how many cats should be allowed to appear in the titles of said issue?

Diversity is also a word that we associate with social inclusiveness.  Fayetteville State is an HBCU (a historically black college/university) and, therefore, might be expected to promote works that reflect African American as well as other minority experiences.  Past issues have contained outstanding efforts by and/or about persons of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.  See, for example, Ernest Williamson’s “African American Pregnant Actuality” and Claire Ibarra’s “Fiesta of Blood” in issue 2—or Abdel Shakur’s “The Prettiest Pieces” and Jessica Tyner’s “How to Oil an Indian Man’s Hair” in issue 3.  Gender and class have also been concerns that pre-occupied characters in many of our published texts.

However, readers of the forthcoming issue will perceive an even wider global and multi-modal influence reflected both in the work and the history of our contributors.  One of issue 4’s poets is a founding editor of an international playwrights’ organization.  Another poet has exhibited his ceramic creations in “museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US,” while a third has been a featured poet at a Paris bookstore while her “paintings and one-of-a kind artistic books” have been “nationally exhibited” in venues such as the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Ingalls Library.

I mention these highlights from our contributors’ bios in order to stress one of the agendas that I have been promoting in my calls for submissions this year: interstitiality.  For the first time, I advertised on the Interstitial Arts Foundation’s Facebook site.  In future issues, I plan to invite more work that situates itself between genre categories.  We do have a number of prose poems and one flash fiction piece in the forthcoming issue, but I would like to fetch more hybrid efforts in issues to come.  Although we had hoped to include some creative flash nonfiction this year, we haven’t exactly been inundated with examples of that developing genre.  I am also particularly open to collaborations between writers and artists of different types—and hope to see mixed media constructions arriving in my inbox once Glint re-opens to submissions for issue 5.  With the assistance of Dr. Marlene Allen, web master, and James Heard, a technologist at the university, we hope to further experiment with digital artistry.

Our journal continues to evolve in a variety of ways.  Since its inception as a student-run publication, Glint has developed into a venue for established and emerging writers.  However, one thing that appears to have been lost along the way is the journal’s capacity to serve as a possible outlet for our own student’s creations.   The “Table of Contents” for issue 1 did include several pieces by FSU students, some of whom worked on the journal.  Now, I realize that our current ability to advertise in selective forums, such as Poets & Writers Magazine, is to some extent made possible by the fact that we are not considered to be a vanity publication.  However, it is unlikely that student submissions to the journal’s g-mail account would be treated with bias as authors’ identities would not be known to preliminary reviewers.  Students are always welcome to submit.  Those working on the journal would not be involved in determining the fate of other students’ work.   But the truth is that the prestige of our contributors’ bios as well as the quality of our recent publications has tended to intimidate.   Neophyte writers and artists from our university community only rarely appear in the general submissions’ bin, despite faculty members’ encouragement.

For this reason, I decided to create a contest that would be open to FSU students as well as to the Cross Creek Early College students who attend classes on our campus.  Dr. Sonya C. Brown, the journal’s Assistant Editor, agreed to take on the role of coordinator for the contest, which awarded gift certificates as well as publication to first place winners in four categories: poetry; fiction; creative nonfiction; visual art.  Judges included faculty from the departments of English, Sociology, and the Performing and Fine Arts.  We hope the contest will become an annual event.

We are also expanding our presence into social media. Glint’s Facebook Group, started by Dr. Kirkpatrick’s class, has now been revived.  Dr. Brown and I serve as administrators.  In addition to posting updates on the journal’s publication and submission status, we also would like the site to serve as an outreach forum for past and present students as well as past, present, and future contributors.  Thus far, I have been sharing workshop/webinar news as well as links to art and writing-themed articles on the group site.  Although Fayetteville, North Carolina, is not exactly known as a literary mecca, Dr. Brown and I have been plotting ways in which we may expand our connections with the developing writers and artists, the protostars of our region, as well as with the larger constellation of our international online community.  For this reason, we are grateful to LitBridge for extending the invitation to share our ever-evolving mission.