Interview With Gold Man Review

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Author: Heather Cuthbertson

How has the magazine unexpectedly evolved since its establishment?

When I first started Gold Man, the focus was on local writers in the Salem, Oregon area. Initially, the journal was meant to satisfy a field study credit for my masters program. I had always wanted to see what it was like to be on the other side of publishing and a journal felt like a way to do that. But I decided that if I was going to do it, then it had to be something exceptional, something we could all be proud to hold in our hands—so I had really high expectations from the beginning and I still maintain those same expectations of quality. For Issue 1, I pretty much recruited my entire critique group to help me (and some still are editors). But saying you’re going to start a journal and actually bringing it to print are two different things. It was this giant learning curve for not just me, but everyone involved and the process was slow moving and time consuming, almost to the point that the idea of doing it again was almost overwhelming. But we had such an outpouring of positive feedback from the writing community that I couldn’t see letting the journal go and here we are six years later.

Every year we get faster and learn something new that changes our process, but I think we finally have a system that works. When we first started out, we also spent a lot of time working with writers on their submissions, editing back and forth until the work was ready. Although I think all the editors enjoyed it, that sort of commitment started to become overwhelming and then when personal lives got in the way, we had to scrape that altogether. We still edit, but it’s a lighter edit: typos, unintentional grammatical mistakes, and so on.

What is a day-in-the-life like for the editors of Gold Man Review?

I think we’re all in different places in our lives so that’s really hard to say. A day-in-the-life for me involves taking care of two little girls (an almost 3 and 1 year old) and then doing my reading and writing once they’re in bed or taking a nap. Before kids, I was able to devote what felt like endless amount of time to both and now I’ve had to adopt the tortoise approach—a little every day. Ironically, I’ve managed to be more productive under a tighter schedule, so who knew? I’m also involved in a writer’s group that meets regularly because there’s nothing more important for a writer, than being part of a writing community.

As far as the other editors at Gold Man, I know most of them also have day jobs that take up a lot of their time and we all have kids, so I imagine they have a lot of the same parameters as I do.

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?

I’m going to have my production editor answer that question since he’s been involved in all the cover designs since the beginning. Here is what he had to say:

“We recognize creating similarly designed covers has certain branding benefits, for the Gold Man team variety was more important. Each issue is different and designed based loosely on the themes within the issue or the trials we were facing at the time. As with the material we publish, our theme is that we do not have a theme.

For myself, constricting parameters significantly reduce the quality of whatever I apply to the canvas (photoshop, not a real canvas). Luckily, Heather Cuthbertson, the Editor-in-Chief, lets me design without limits. For example, issue one (to no one’s surprise) was of our mascot the Gold Man statue located on the top of Oregon’s capital building. Issue 2 (to everyone’s surprise) was Heather Cuthbertson posing as our mascot. We were lucky to connect with Mike Chasar, a professor at Willamette University, who proposed we publish a collection of Suffrage Poems written by women in Oregon during the early 1900’s that the English Department had in its possession. It seemed only fitting, to mock the ridiculous nature of popular culture magazines who target women; given just a short hundred years’ prior women were languishing, not about makeup applications and the 24 Moves to Unleash your Inner Bad Girl (true magazine article, Google it for yourself), but rather over equality, income disparity, famine, loss, and resilience.

Issue 3 was probably the hardest year. Babies were born, editors were moving out of the Salem, Oregon area, and everyone had real jobs, with real demands and making time for Gold Man Review seemed more difficult as our publishing deadline approached. Needless to say, we were touch and go like my mouse when the batteries have run dry, but with a little shake I somehow got a little jolt of juice. Lucky for us, we have changed the batteries since then and are more committed than ever.

Issue 5 has been the most enjoyable cover to publish. We graduated this year and published outside of Oregon and into California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. It seemed only fitting to include the states on the front and back cover, as a sort of homage to where we came from.”

What authors are your editors fans of? Does that have a bearing on how they select submissions?

That’s a long list because every Gold Man editor is a fan of a different genre. But let’s see … Toni Morrison, Jennifer Egan, Junot Diaz, Elizabeth Strout, Bill Bryson, Louise Gluck, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Gillian Flynn, John Steinbeck, George R.R. Martin, Alden Bell, Thomas Harris, Jane Austin, Sylvia Plath, and Jeannette Walls for starters.

I think our individual tastes do show in what we like in the submission pile. I tend to lean toward darker subject matter and experimental writing so I’m always going to get excited when I see that. But then we have editors who love the sweet, romantic stories or others who like the downright bizarre—the weirder the better. But despite our varied tastes, we rarely disagree on submissions because, in the end, we know good writing when we see it.

Tell us about a piece you recently published that got you and the staff excited. Why did you love it? 

There was this one nonfiction piece titled “The Tube Time Slumber Party: Or, How I Didn’t Lose My Virginity” that I was really excited about. This submission had pictures and lists and different fonts and a voice that was so spot on for a young adult that I just had to have it. It was one of the most unique submissions we’ve ever had come our way, especially in nonfiction, and I’m a fan of anything different and when writers take risks. We couldn’t publish the pictures because of what they’d do to our print per page costs, but we were able to capture the rest and I’m really proud to have that author part of Issue 5.

What are you working on in your own work right now?

Right now I’m at the tail end of finishing up a YA novel. It’s the hardest and most exciting part of the writing process: it’s edited enough that it’s ready for my critique partners but not edited enough to go to my agent. It can get really hard to not jump the gun at this stage and I keep telling myself to stay focused on my editing list instead of attaching it in an email and hitting send.

Since I struggle with wanting to send my work out before it’s ready, I sympathize with writers who make the same mistake when submitting to Gold Man. Those submissions are fairly easy to recognize because it’s work that is really good, but if the writer had just taken the time to make a few more editing passes on it, then it would have been extraordinary. It’s a sad thing to come across, but it’s a reminder of why I can’t do the same with my own work. The unfortunate fact of the publishing world, from big publishers to little journals, is we only get one shot.

What is the next exciting thing happening at Gold Man Review?

Right now we’re focused on our next issue and reviewing submissions. It’s always really exciting just to see what we receive. We don’t publish on themes, but I find it interesting that themes always manage to crop up. It’s sort of the collective unconscious at work and it’s fascinating to see what is on people’s minds every year because it’s always different.