Notes From the Editors

Spry Literary Journal: A Fairytale in Five Parts

 

In honor of launch week, we have decided to share our Editors’ Letter in sections. Today, and for the next four days, you can check back to read about how Spry Literary Journal was conceived, how the idea matured, the people who helped us along the way, and our thoughts after publishing our inaugural issue.

 

Chapter One

Once upon a time, there were two graduate students who were approaching the end of a long, flexuous journey spent in pursuit of their MFAs in Creative Writing. Erin A. Corriveau and Linsey Jayne tackled the final throes of thesis completion in the way they got their work done best: stalling, and chatting for hours online. (Really, it was chronic.) It was during one such procrastination session that a conversation would render Erin and Linsey’s fate’s forever changed:

 

1:15pm EST on May 7, 2012 (verbatim):

 

Erin:         Do you think that we should start a literary magazine?

I mean, what do we really need to do besides make a website?

Linsey:    Oh, man. That’s a really smart idea.

We totally could.

Linsey:    I think I am as ready as I’ll ever be; although, I’m worried I’ll probably miss a typo or something.

Erin:        Oh, gosh. I’m worried about typos, too…

 

Setting those fears aside, Erin and Linsey torched ahead on a project that would take them seven months, ten days, and two hours to conceive and complete.

 

The Name Game

In the days that followed after Erin and Linsey embarked on this latest quest, the pair found themselves schlepping through a progressively deeper miasma of decisions. There were choices of all levels of complexity, such as the type of writing the journal would seek to publish, what budget was available for the first issue (none, it turned out), ways to fundraise, the length of the reading period and the official publication date. And then, of course, were questions of time management, staffing, and design — and layout and contracts and calls for submission and policies and events and social media outreach and a plume of other little choices which, all told, still took less time to figure out than the big mama of all decisions–naming the journal.

 

Linsey and Erin considered many titles: Spry, Microcosm, Specimen, Carbon, Deft, Salient, Parable, Thoosa, Gooseberry, King of the Blue Ocean, Kobo, The Whale That Hangs In That Museum In New Bedford, Dash, Cobblestone, Root, Reflex, Startle, 508, Impulse, Instinct, Sudden, Tattoo, Scar, Velocity, Heart, Bone, Nevus, Quicksand, Apercu, Terse, Biopsy, Microscope, Quark, Biopsy, Jot, Sear, Posthaste, Presto, Littleneck Lit, Hypersonic, Twitch, Flicker, Tack, This Is Not Your Undergrad Lit Journal(!), Thalia, Anake, Al Dente, STDs and First Love, Flash Fry, Axe, and a few others. Many of the names sprung up through conversation*. Here are a few small snippets verbatim from the naming process:

 

Erin: I Googled “What stays with you forever” and the answers are pretty much STDs and first love.

Linsey: HAHAAHAH (I would submit to a magazine called STDs and First Love)

I wouldn’t run it, but I’d sure as hell submit.

 

Linsey: When you hear Littleneck Lit, do you picture Arkansas?

 

Erin: Sear sounds like Sears. But that could help if people search for Sears and find us

Linsey: Oooooh

Optimization, I do like that.

 

Three months of careful compilation, downsizing, and re-compiling lists and rationales behind possible names led the pair straight back to the first name they had agreed sounded fit to the content they sought: Spry.

*We are always happy to share the stories behind each and every name, why we considered them, and how long they lasted on the list. Just ask us!

 

Main Characters

Along their course to developing Spry, Erin and Linsey started to realize that, while they served as an energetic and creative team, it was becoming difficult to do this alone. Without some solid additional teammates, it was going to be tough to publish a journal that was every bit as amazing as they dreamed. So they set out to find the characters who would play important parts in Spry’s story. A little searching and inquiring brought them to Danielle Joseph and Amy LaCount, who devoted hours to research and database development. It is with Danielle and Amy’s perseverance that they were able to send out the call for submissions far and wide across the land.

While the interns would play a large role in the behind-the-scenes work and reading submissions, Spry needed more readers to cull through the hundreds of submissions received. Erin and Linsey reached out to their writing colleagues, those they have written and edited and workshopped with and asked if they had any interest in reading for the journal. Spry then welcomed Phil Lemos, Richard Trueblood and Zac Zander as the newest readers of the journal.

While creating the website and updating social media, Erin and Linsey realized how much they needed a graphic designer. Cisco Covino, who had been helping the pair come up with fliers and potential covers, came along to make Spry burst alive with color.

The final stop on the ladies’ path was to enlist Kate Gorton to be the proofreader. Kate’s grammatical genius and eye for detail skimmed submissions to be published, adding touches of finishing that would make these pieces their strongest and most sound.

But the characters listed on the Masthead aren’t the only ones who influenced this inaugural issue. In early stage fundraising, there were so many kind people who donated to make Spry come from a dream into a reality. Without these kind souls, the journal would not have a home online.

And certainly last but not least, one by one writers submitted their work to Spry. On the first day of the reading period, Spry received four submissions. In the next two months, the staff read four hundred and twenty-two more submissions.

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

This journal couldn’t have published anything if the writers who submitted didn’t put their faith into Spry. For two months, Erin, Linsey and all the readers embarked on a wild journey through car chases, relocation, love stories, pre-1650s North America, circuses, places of zen and disarray, bathers in moonlight, and breathers of chaos, to name a few. Of the 426 submissions received, Linsey and Erin were proud to publish thirty well-written pieces comprised of creative nonfiction, fiction, flash, and poetry.

Sending acceptances was fun; sending rejections felt worse than receiving them, especially as time got closer to publication. Erin, Linsey and crew were ecstatic to receive so many awesome submissions, but choosing felt like torture.

Once the 30 pieces were accepted, each piece was assigned and Erin and Linsey teamed up with the authors to sharpen the prose and poetry. Working with these poets and prose writers was energizing; Erin and Linsey loved being able to glean further insight into each piece and cooperate with such open-minded talents.  Editing became a joint effort between an editor and the writer with whom she worked, and Erin and Linsey soon found themselves engaging in both wild and educational conversations, such as whether or not Pamela was a well-known sex-figure a decade ago or the reasons why one would or should use ellipses, an em-dash, or a semicolon.

It was somewhere amidst these conversations with writers and the literary friendships they developed, that Erin and Linsey found themselves changed in a big, positive way.

 

The Next Chapter

From what started as a tiny suggestion online, Spry grew beyond what Erin and Linsey were able to imagine. The website they designed turned out dreamier than they assumed. All the pieces began to fall into place.

That isn’t to say there weren’t any bumps along their yellow brick road. Aided by their graphic designer Cisco, Erin and Linsey struggled through the second weekend of December as the site’s server went down a few times, worrying about last-minute touches, tweaking code on the back-end of the website, and making sure all photos, prose and poetry looked appropriate. At long last, the site was live, and Erin and Linsey celebrated (with ice cream cake).

In their next adventure, Erin and Linsey are wildly excited to head off to AWP’s Annual Conference and Bookfair, and possibly take part in an off-site reading, as well as meet some of the wonderful contributors who will be attending. In the meantime, they are staffing the second issue and beginning to read new submissions. While their original intent with Spry was to publish bi-annually, they are currently also thinking about publishing a half-issue, in support of a charity organization.

Spry might have been conceived quickly and without much thought, but serendipity lead this journal to a beautiful home where it will continue to grow and mature with every issue.

 

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement and we look forward to a future of publishing incredible poetry and prose.

4 Comments

  1. I am really going to enjoy reading this section of anecdotes. I can already relate to this – watch this space, eh? 🙂

  2. Thanks, Kate. And, yes… we will publish the update each afternoon at this very page for the next four days. -Erin

  3. I think what you girls are doing is fun, lighthearted and most of all extremely interesting. Keep up the good work!!! Ginny

  4. Thank you, Virginia!

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