Interview With Mud Season Review
Author: Rebecca Starks
Mud Season Reviews seems to have a large team full of editors coming from diverse backgrounds and contributing in unique ways for the literary magazine. How did all the editors come together to form Mud Season Review? How did the literary magazine start?
Each year the organizer of the Burlington Writers Workshop, Peter Biello, has asked the (now 700+) workshop members what new projects they’d like to take on in the coming year. Starting a literary journal came in at the top of the list. We had a meeting of all who were interested, Peter talked to me and to Danielle Thierry about taking the lead, we put out a call for volunteers, and we set up the basic staff structure we have now. Many of us did not know each other before we set to work, few of us had experience working on a literary journal, and it’s been amazing to realize, as people volunteer the skills and knowledge they have, that we had everything we needed from the start—someone with InDesign expertise, others with project management and PR backgrounds, a well-connected art editor, a professional copyeditor, editors with aesthetic visions, readers with ambition and work ethic. We asked a friend to design a logo, learned WordPress to make a website, set up Submittable and Facebook and twitter accounts, and began accepting submissions. We’ve been surprised by how welcoming the literary community has been.
Why do you choose to publish work on a monthly basis? Was there a specific reason that Mud Season Review publishes on a monthly cycle?
We set out wanting to focus on a single writer (or artist) of the four genres we publish (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art). Once a month felt manageable for us, as a volunteer staff, and felt like a good amount of time to showcase the work and post interviews, to keep our website fresh but not excessively busy. It was a fortuitous decision: it really feels like the right amount of content for readers to absorb during that time, and for us as editors to connect with and feel excited about. There is an endless amount of content on the web, and we want to provide more of a “slow reading” experience as a journal. The only drawback is that we felt we were having to decline too much good work, so we’ve decided to publish an annual print journal as well.
What unexpected challenges and rewards have you encountered as an editor?
The greatest challenges for me have been the amount of time the job takes and the number and kinds of decisions to be made: it reminds me of what I hear it’s like to have your own house built to your specifications. But it’s really more like doing the building yourself, alongside friends, and once you accept that it’s a constant work in progress, you can enjoy getting to know the people you are working alongside, learning from them, and connecting with authors. We bring our workshop mentality to the pieces we accept, and several editors, including our copyeditor, often propose changes for clarity or pacing. The most unexpected reward: hearing from authors that our edits have helped them improve a piece of writing.
What authors are your editors fans of?
I asked the lead editors for their favorites, and added some of my own. Including both modern and contemporary authors: James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Trevor, Lydia Davis, Sydney Lea, Louise Glück, Seamus Heaney, Tracy K. Smith; John Jeremiah Sullivan, David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer (nonfiction), John McPhee, Chuck Klosterman, Henry Miller (nonfiction) and Gary Snyder (essays); James Joyce, Louise Erdrich, Octavio Paz, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros; Colum McCann, Rick Russo, Joyce Carol Oates; W.B. Yeats, E.E. Cummings and Allen Ginsberg; Naomi Shihab Nye, Barbara Hamby, Yusef Komunyakaa.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Mud Season Review?
Our first annual print journal is coming out the first week of April, and we’ll be heading to the AWP with it.