By BJ Hollars
In anticipation for Barstow & Grand’s inaugural issue, we recently sat down with B&G editor Eric Rasmussen. Read below for some behind-the-scenes details from the first issue, as well as what’s coming next!
BJ Hollars: So B&G's inaugural issue will be released October 26 at 7PM at The Local Store! Congratulations! Tell us a bit about what people can expect at the release party?
Eric Rasmussen: The release party will be a mash-up of two of our favorite things: traditional literary readings, and office birthday parties. We will have about ten of our issue one authors on hand to read their work, as well as the editors of the journal. Then, we will stand around, eat cake, and make small talk.
Tell us a bit about the editorial process. Who submitted and how many submissions did you receive?
ER: We received submissions from a wide assortment of people connected to the Chippewa Valley. Some of our authors have lived in Eau Claire their entire lives, while one woman from whom we accepted a prose piece and a poem is connected to the Chippewa Valley through her love of Leinenkugel’s products (she lives on the west coast). Taking this approach created an intriguing argument for what constitutes a “literary community” in the 21st century. What binds us in modern times is much more than geographic location, although our geography is still the focus of our communities.
We received almost 300 submissions from over 100 writers, of which we were able to accept a little less than 10%.
What surprised you most about the work you received?
ER: We knew going in we’d see lots of pieces about the themes that surround us in the upper midwest - the landscape, the seasons, rural living - but we were surprised by how predominant those themes were in the submission pile. This is a good thing and a bad thing - we want to capture the character of our home, but it can also be challenging to stand out if a few dozen other submissions are talking about the same thing. The other thing that surprised us was how many submissions we received from “new” writers. It’s obvious there are many people (who haven’t yet done so) looking for an opportunity to share their words. It’s exciting to give some of those authors a chance to do so.
What excites you most about the first issue?
ER: Honestly, that it exists. This has been a tremendous learning experience in all regards, from forming an editorial team, to soliciting pieces, to accepting pieces, to producing a physical journal. Now that we’ve got one done, we can implement all of the grand plans that had to be shelved while we learned the basics! Onward to issue two!
How can writers best contribute to Barstow & Grand?
ER: Buying an issue, without a doubt, would be the number one way to contribute. If we can build this endeavor into something that can someday pays its writers and staff, then we will have accomplished something really significant. Sending work is another fantastic way to support the journal. Not only would we cease to exist without quality submissions, we charge a small submission fee, which allows us to host a website, hold release parties with cake, and print the journal, so by submitting, writers are participating in our writing community in a concrete and measurable way. The other way is to keep working. Publishing writing is hard, and for most, only comes after lots of rejections and hours (days? months? years?) of toil. Our mission has always to be support the “professionalization” of the Valley’s writing community. Everyone who shares work with a writing group or who plunges into yet another draft is helping us achieve our mission.
What's coming up next? When should people prepare to submit again?
ER: Submissions for issue two will open in March of 2018. We once again are looking for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry
Any final thoughts?
ER: There is so much involved in “becoming a writer,” and one of the final steps is seeking publication for one’s work. If you’re at that point in your writing life, Barstow & Grand is here to help. We exist for you. We can’t wait to see your submissions!
Looking forward to seeing you all on October 26 at 7PM at The Local Store!