This weekend, I got to do one of my favorite parts of my job: setting up the final order of an issue of NDQ. This involves some annoying work of getting author agreements signed, making sure authors have submitted their bios and mailing addresses, and checking once again the final copies of their contributions for anything that will cause our publishing partners to stumble.
Once that’s done, though, I review everything in the issue one last time and try to figure out how to set out the volume. This may seem like a little thing, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s not. In fact, the more I’ve worked on the Quarterly, the more I’ve become convinced that 70-80 contributions in each issue in a thoughtful and deliberate was is part of the “value add” that a editor brings to a project like this (of course, it may be as an editor, I’m thinking about how to justify my own work in the process).
There are a few things that I try to keep in mind. First, I want to make sure that we avoid any problematic juxtapositions. For example, I would hate for an irreverent poem to follow a serene reflection on nature or for a heartfelt expression of grief to stand next to a bawdy and riotous short story. While it is not alway able to match the tones of works perfectly, I try to avoid any inappropriate or difficult shifts across the journal’s pages.
Second, I think that part of what encourages a reader to engage with an issue and that means engaged with the authors represented in an issue is for the work to be arranged in way that entices a reader to keep reading. This often means finding way to tempt the reader to read just a bit deeper into an issue by tracing little themes that emerge over the course of the contributions. It also means juxtaposing shorter and longer contributions, balancing the interplay between genres (in our case, poems, stories, essays, and reviews) and inducing the reader to just stay a bit longer in our pages. Along these lines, I try to make sure that I post some of the last material to appear in an issue on our website first, to make sure that readers find it. When issues are as packed as some of the issues of NDQ, it is easy for material to get lost particularly toward the end.
Finally, I’ve started to think a bit more about highlighting certain kinds of work in our pages. For example, this fall’s issue will feature poetry by Dan Quisenberry which I’ll highlight as a special feature with its own short introduction. In the spring issue, we’ll include a special feature on translated works and translation ideally with its own introduction. I have this idea of making the translation section a free digital “pull out” (no not literally) to showcase some of the work in the issue.
For those of you interested in this other side of my professional identity, I would encourage you to check out the NDQ website and especially our weekly blog where I often post highlights from past and present issues. If you enjoy what you’ve read, do consider subscribing!