Earlier this year at the annual AWP conference, I was on the floor of the book fair talking with my friend, writer Dave Housley, who is a founding editor of Barrelhouse. We were catching up on a range of things: writing, editing, health, dogs, the horrors of moving (my wife and I had just relocated from D.C. to Ohio), our health (hey, look, we’re middle-aged guys, okay?), and of course lots of literary gossip. I don’t remember exactly when but at some point Dave said, You know Travis closed Story, right?
The idea hit me almost immediately: what if I relaunched Story? The AWP book fair always fills me with happiness, enthusiasm, and elation. I first attended in 2004 when I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri St. Louis, and have attended every year since 2009, first with the Missouri Review and for the last few years with Boulevard. Remaining at the table and meeting the contributors and readers and publishers has always been my favorite thing about the conference, getting the chance to talk shop, put a face to name, and discuss all the work we’ve read in the last year that we loved. With thousands of people walking through each day, it’s almost impossible to not come across someone fascinating and, very likely, an old friend or three.
Of course, the last three years have left me with a bit of an “outside looking in” feeling. Much as I love being a part of Boulevard, I’ve been participating far from their central location in St. Louis, communicating through email. So I wrote Travis and said, whaddya think?
He took a few months to consider it and then, pretty simply, Travis said, yeah sure. Back in August, I hopped in my car and drove out to Pennsylvania to discuss the transition with Travis Kurowski. He invited me into his home to have dinner with his family. He grilled burgers and vegetables and we spent a few hours talking about the midterm elections, issues in the literary magazine economy (and publishing in general), the importance of an inclusive staff and contributors, and much more. I left his home thinking and dreaming big about where Story can go next.
The following months have been humbling. To make a bad metaphor, I’m used to steering ships, not building them. This includes filing state and federal paperwork, recruiting a board and holding our first quarterly board meeting, writing a business plan, seeking contributors and donors, getting a new logo, lining up technical help from web developers and graphic designers, getting quotes from printers, and a whole bunch of additional details that I will not bore you with.
I’ve always wanted to run a literary magazine and over the last fifteen years, I think I’ve learned enough to pull it off. I could be wrong. But you probably know what Beckett said about failure. If that’s the case, what’s one more failure? Fall down seven times, get up eight. Over the last few months, I have thought “Will this really work?” And if I’m being honest, the answer is I have no idea. But I think so.
Our goal is to bring a triannual magazine to the public with one issue each year being themed, in order to expand from our focus on fiction and nonfiction to include poetry. We want to embrace the printed, physical form, with the intimacy of internal thought and reflection. We want to have a magazine that provides work that is not just entertaining, but engaging, to not just attract interest but occupy your interest, and ripple in your memory long after you’ve closed the magazine.
Further, we want Story to be not just diverse, but inclusive. This means publishing a range of voices that have been marginalized, ignored, and discarded, voices from women, writers of color, indigenous communities, and the LGBTQ community, just to name a few. Along with great storytelling, we want the work in our magazine to be empathic, entertaining, and emotionally complex.
While Story is a part of the literary tradition, it is also tradition to break from the norm. Story wants to publish work that takes risks, that confuses genre and style, reimagines narrative in a way that is “serious play.” Have you ever watched kids play with toys? The way they know they are “playing” but they have a single-minded focus on the game? That’s the kind of work we will find and publish.
Finally, our plan is for Story to be more than just a great print magazine. Additional plans include regular web publications (likely poetry and flash fiction), a reading series, a podcast, conferences, community workshops, and partnerships with arts and literary organizations. We value our Ohio community, where we are based, and our literary community, that is national and global.
Big thanks to Travis Kurowski for trusting me with Story. Big thanks to Tanya McQueen for hopping onboard as an associate editor to help Story find the best work for the magazine. Big thanks to the new Story board, a mix of old and new friends devoted to the Columbus writing community: Ruth Awad, Valerie Cumming, Keith Leonard, and Maggie Smith. Big thanks to my neighbors Bryan Lohr and Kendra Hovey for the nonprofit advice on how to get this sucker off the ground and keep it afloat.
You can get back in the mix with us by subscribing right now. For $25 you can snag a one-year subscription and three issues of Story will land in your mailbox in February, June, and October. It’s really as easy as clicking this button:
We already have a couple of terrific pieces lined up for the new issue and, if you’re a writer, would love the chance to read your work for the next issue and beyond. Which is also easy: send us your work here.
And if you’d like, we have a snazzy newsletter you can subscribe to right here.
So! There is a tremendous amount to look forward to in the coming year. I am beyond thrilled to bring Story back. i do hope you’ll join us: we plan on being here for a long time to come.
Follow Story on Twitter: @StoryLitMag