“Where’s the Crying?” Or: Creating the Right Project with the Right People

Last week saw the launch of a project dear to my heart–the new issue of Tahoma Literary Review. It was last November that Joe Ponepinto and I began to design the philosophy, business model, production schedule, and aesthetic vision that would become the journal. We had been keeping our ears to the literary tectonic plates, listening to the rumbles of discontent from writers about how few paying venues the literary market offers, and how little creative writing seems to be valued by the wider culture. We saw a gap in the market, and through many meetings, hammerings-out-of-numbers, and general strategizing, we came up with what we thought–hoped–would be a project that would address the needs and wants of the literary community.

Happily, the literary world seems to be on board with what we’re doing. Not only has our business model proven to be both tenable and sustainable, we’re also pleased as punch about the quality of work we have in our pages.

You can have a look at our current issue here (print and Kindle versions are for sale, but several other digital format, including those for iBooks and Nook, are free!), listen to contributors read their work, or even just peruse our blog.

Beyond the fact that the launch was a success from both aesthetic and business standpoints, it was also one of the most personally gratifying publishing experiences I’ve had to date. On the day of the journal’s launch, my husband asked me, “so, it’s done? Really done? Where was all the crying?” Now, I can’t promise that Joe and Yi Shun didn’t shed any tears over last-minute excitement that inevitably arises with publishing enterprises, but that this was a tear-free week for me was rather remarkable. 

You see, having worked on a number of different publications over the past ten years, I’ve had launches that have been good, bad, and run-for-the-hills ugly. In part, the difficult spots were because I had a lot to learn about the business of running what’s basically a small publishing company on a razor-thin budget. I also tried to wear far too many hats, take on bigger tasks and tighter timelines than I could reasonably manage, and handle far too many responsibilities without help. I’m grateful for each of the ugly scenes–it’s still close enough to be a very abstract kind of gratitude!–because of how much I learned, but when I left my last editorial post, I was ready to stop editing for good. The many months away from the editorial desk were amazing. I had time to write, I took care of my health, I had something that could legitimately be called a social life, and nobody ever called me at 11 at night with some logistical crisis.

But having broken my moratorium on editing when I signed on to be a partner in TLR was one of the best choices I could have made. Working on the right team of people–people who are experienced, know the potential pitfalls of publishing, share the same vision and expectations, know how to use their strengths, and have appreciation for those they work with–has been a surprisingly easy. I even find myself asking where all the tears are.

I wonder and I worry whether ready-to-stop is where most burnt-out editors truly do end their time in publishing rather than finding or creating these right teams for them. I’m glad I didn’t let my exhaustion, frustration, and general need of a vacation keep me from taking part in Tahoma. What an unnecessary waste of all the hard-won and slowly accumulated knowledge that would have been. It was a good idea to quit editing when I did, but it was an even better idea to start again.

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