Interview With Cherry Tree

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Picture of Lindsay LusbyAuthor: Lindsay Lusby

How did you come to be involved with Cherry Tree Literary Journal?

I have been a part of Cherry Tree since before its inception in 2014. I work with founder & editor Jehanne Dubrow at the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, and she invited me on board as managing editor when we were only in the early planning stages. While Jehanne mapped out the complicated curricular side of the publication, I was in charge of researching the running of a literary journal and putting the infrastructure in place as we prepared for our first open reading period.

What is your literary background like? What got you interested in starting a literary journey?

I am a poet! I have published one chapbook—Imago from dancing girl press (2014)—and several poems in other literary magazines and journals. I’ve always been interested in the behind-the-scenes work of literary editing and publishing, and I got to get my feet wet a couple years prior to launching Cherry Tree, when I took up the position of assistant editor at the Literary House Press, which is intertwined with my arts administration position of Assistant Director at the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. At the time we opened for submissions, I had had the privilege of carrying one letterpress chapbook and one trade paperback poetry anthology from concept to printed book. (Literary House Press is also the publisher of Cherry Tree.)

For our founder, Jehanne Dubrow (who is also a poet), and for the Literary House Press, starting a national literary journal was the natural next step to take for our students and for our program. Washington College, our mother institution, is a small liberal arts college that takes great pride in its undergraduate creative writing program, but one thing that, up until 2014, we still lacked (in comparison to our peer institutions) was a national literary journal, a publication that provided the opportunity for our undergrad students to participate actively in the wider literary world and the current conversations happening there. Cherry Tree was a long time coming for us and we’re so glad to be here at last!

Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?

I certainly do but, as managing editor, my aesthetic preferences are not a large part of my job. Although I absolutely love all of the work we publish, the aesthetic preferences largely reflected in each issue of Cherry Tree are those of our Editor Jehanne Dubrow, our Poetry & Creative Nonfiction Editor James Allen Hall, and our Fiction Editor Kate Kostelnik. Basically, I’m saying that these three deserve the bulk of the credit for choosing the phenomenal work that ends up in Cherry Tree (I wish I could say I had more to do with that end of things!). I would describe our overall aesthetic as one that prizes writing that holds the truth and lyricism of language above sentimentality and message-making. Writing with a strong voice; writing that is both culturally sensitive and bold, playful and smart. Our tastes run closer to the traditional than the experimental, but we need our writers to take risks with their work.

How does being an editor at Cherry Tree influence your own personal work?

At the end of the day, my work on Cherry Tree really reminds me that, as a writer wishing to publish her work, getting my work out there in front of editors is my most important job, after the writing part is done. It’s so easy to forget to do this, or to let daily responsibilities take priority over this very mundane part of the writing and publishing process. I want my work to have a life outside of me, to be read by other people and to have the chance to participate in and contribute to the global literary conversation. When I’m sending out our calls for submissions, and assigning received submissions to our screeners and editors, I have to put those same questions back on myself: Have YOU submitted your work to any literary journals lately? What are you waiting for?

How do you hope Cherry Tree will impact the overall writing community?

Our hope for Cherry Tree is that it contributes additional voices to the literary editing and publishing world, nothing more self-aggrandizing than that. We also want the current undergraduate students on our masthead to use this experience to go on to further careers in literary editing and publishing and to impact the community with their own incredible writing. We want Cherry Tree to go on long after us, in every way possible.

What type of opportunities will the press be offering in the future? What is the next exciting thing happening at Cherry Tree?

In the coming years, we would like to increase our print cycle to two issues a year. We are also working toward finding an endowment for the journal, which would allow us to pay our writers beyond the two contributors’ copies they currently receive.

We open for general submissions for our third issue on August 15, 2016. We’re pretty darn excited about that, too. Mark your calendars!