Interview With Brevity
How has the magazine unexpectedly evolved since its establishment?
Nearly everything has been unexpected, since I began the magazine on a lark, and thought it might last two issues at best. My reason for starting Brevity (back in 1997) had more to do with learning HTML and experimenting with web page building, something relatively new at the time, than it had to do with envisioning a magazine that might endure. But Brevity has endured, nearly two decades. What amazes me most is the number of readers (more than 2,000 people visit our site each month), the international scope of readers and contributors, and some of the prominent names we have been able to attract in the past five years.
What is your editorial process like? How are decisions made and who has input?
We have five volunteer readers who vote on the submission pile but don’t make any binding decision. Our managing editor looks at what the volunteer readers have weighed in on and sorts these into two piles: NO THANK YOU and MAYBE. The managing editor is currently Kelly Sundberg, but she is in her final year and we will be taking on someone new soon, and she looks at every submission we receive, which is sometimes as many as 300 per month, which works out to be about 900 to 1000 per issue. The MAYBE pile ends up on my desk, and the final decision as to what we publish is made by me.
The artwork for each issue is beautiful, unique and seems to incorporate different styles for each issue. How do you go about choosing the artwork for each issue?
We have solicited artists and photographers to match their images with the essays. We stipulate that the images do not “illustrate” the essays, as in a picture of a dog for an essay about a dog, but rather enhance the essay or speak to it in some oblique way. (If you are an artist or photographer who is interested, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to your work.)
What are some of your favorite pieces from Brevity Issue 51?
Well, of course, I like them all, since I chose them all, but to spotlight a few: I am very fond of Matthew Gavin Frank’s “A Brief Atmospheric Future” (http://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/a-brief-atmospheric-future/) because it ranges so wide, from the personal to the historical, and because of his use of research, something we do not see enough of in Brevity. On the other hand, Beth Ann Fennelly’s “Some Childhood Dreams Really Do Come True” (http://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/some-childhood-dreams-really-do-come-true/ ) is as simple as could be, but so witty and wry. If I were to allow myself one more, I would single out “The Woods Are Going to Close” by e.v. de cleyre, (http://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/the-woods-are-going-to-close/) because of the unconventional style of storytelling.
As a writer, what have you gained from editing?
You learn so much by editing, or by being a volunteer reader for a magazine. In the end, it helps me to see the flaws in my own work so much more quickly and honestly.
What are some trends you tend to see in submissions?
The work is varied, to be honest. I don’t see any clear trends other than the increase in submissions -– flash nonfiction is certainly taking hold as form beyond what I saw five or ten years ago.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Brevity?
We have an upcoming special issue on Race, Racism, and Racialization, with anchor essays from Claudia Rankine and Roxane Gay, and other essays yet to be chosen, guest-edited by Joy Castro and Ira Sukrungruang. We are also on the verge of launching a podcast series.