The Long Goodbye
At this year’s AWP, I was a last minute replacement on a panel as our head honcho, Speer Morgan, never made it out of the Snowpocalypse that hit Columbia in February. The panel I was on was called “Change or Die: How Established Print Journals are Adapting to Life on the Internet.” All AWP panels have one person that is the event organizer and for this one that was Amber Withycombe of Witness. The day before our panel met, Amber asked all of us – Christina Thompson and Laura Healy of Harvard Review, Tyler Meier of Kenyon Review, Andrew Ciotola of West Branch – to sit down and walk through the basics of our presentation.
Being editors, we also took time to talk about the challenges our magazines have that were above and beyond the focus of the panel. Lots to talk about there. As always for, well, any business, revenue and funding were big concerns. The number of manuscripts we receive and how to read them all in a timely manner. Subscriptions, and how to get more. And so forth. We also talked about problems with staff. High turnover, low pay, consistency of the work, all those things. I was pretty quiet this entire time, and when someone, I forgot who, noticed I wasn’t saying much and asked how things were with TMR, I think I started with something like, “Well, we’re actually pretty lucky …”
And we are. And we’re lucky because of the people we’ve had working with us.
Any organization is going to have turnover, and since TMR is based at a university, that turnover tends to happen, oh, right about now. It’s actually been spread out a little bit, so the blow to us has been lightened a bit; nonetheless, summer is always a transitional period for our magazine. This change – expected, normal, inevitable – doesn’t get any easier when you aren’t just saying goodbye to colleagues, but saying goodbye to your friends.
Scott Scheese, our audio editor, actually left us in June. This dude’s crazy: he works all the way up to the last day of May, moves all his stuff the next day, and then hits the ground running when he gets to Phoenix. Scott has joined Teach for America down in Arizona and is in the middle of working about 70 hours a week (really) in preparation for his upcoming school year. Scott has made our audio production seamless. Our recordings were well-organized, thorough, and efficient; the sound quality sharp and clear; his mentorship kind and respectful; and overall left us in a much better place. He’s helped to lay the foundation for this coming year when our audio content gets rolled and presented on the bigger stage that it justly deserves. And, over these last few minutes, Scott and I have knocked back a few drinks and played a lot of basketball (though not enough!), and if there is anything more important than art and literature, well, it’s basketball (that’s what we call “hyperbole”). I’m really, really happy with the work Scott has done this year. But, more important, I’m happy to now be able to call him my friend.
Katy Didden, our poetry editor, is still glowing from having her dissertation finished. She hasn’t actually left Missouri: she just took an appointment at Saint Louis University, so she’s right down the highway from us. Katy was actually our poetry editor not once, but twice, both in this past year and in 2008-09. Yup, twice. Begged her to come back. I’m not sure if anything else can speak to how much we trust and value the work she has done in selecting the poetry we publish. She’s a painstakingly patient and generous reader, and has worked hard to make the Poem of the Week feature as great as it has been this past year, let alone the terrific content we’ve had for the past four issues. Oh, and she pulls it all off while writing this and this and this and this and this. Are we gonna miss her? Actually, we kinda already do.
Nell McCabe, our anthology editor, has been making textBOX, our online anthology, something other than an idea. For two years, we’ve been kicking around a way to present our back content in a way that is insightful, useful, and fun for a while now, and Nell actually got it off the ground. Now, textBOX is a fully functional site that will have stories, poems, essays, author interviews, audio content, all that good stuff, for both use in the classroom and enhancement for all readers. Nell has also caught me in my worst Monday mornings (not that I have any other kind, but you know what I’m saying), and has been a patient listener (for me) and a terrific mentor (for our students). A travel buddy on a cold February morning when the bus’s heater didn’t work and a helping set of hands when I moved, she’s made all things here at TMR better. But it’s our morning talks I will miss the most.
As for TMR, well, we don’t rebuild, we reload, to snag a little lexicon fun from college football folks. So, with Kevin McFillen, Austin Segrest, and Kate McIntyre joining us this month to batten down the hatches in, respectively, audio, poetry, and textBOX, our magazine remains in great shape. We just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank Scott, Katy, and Nell for their work these last twelve months, work that was exceptional. We miss you. I miss you. I’ll say Good Luck, though you guys don’t really need it since I know you’re going to great in your new homes. I just hope I’ll see all of you again real soon.
Michael Nye is the managing editor of The Missouri Review.