Lex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA
The Future of Our Stories Literary Journal
Letter from the Editor, Spring 2012 originally appeared here at Our Stories Literary Journal
IT IS GETTING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO RUN A LITERARY JOURNAL IN THE 21ST CENTURY WHILE RELYING ON THE TRADITIONS AND ETIQUETTE OF THE LAST CENTURY. I started OS in 2006 with a dollar and a dream to provide a service and publish the best short stories online. What began as a thumbing our nose at the institutions of writing grew steadily but never really took off. I relied on many old outdated models of publishing, including a system that while supportive and illustratively different than other literary journals by providing feedback to all submissions we received, still wantonly celebrated the 1% of what was good enough to be published. I did this, never realizing I founded a literary journal that was a half measure solution to what was wrong with the literary system.
Further, running a literary journal and publishing a fine piece of digital work online has become increasingly time consuming relying on systems on the Creative Suite of Adobe products such as Dreamweaver and Photoshop. It seems almost comical that when I started OS there was a vigorous debate regarding the value of a literary journal online, as if it was not really a journal at all but demarcated as simply a “zine”. As such, way back in 2006, I designed the front page of Our Stories to replicate an actual magazine; a journal that you would assume was in print. Ahh the things we do to make ourselves seem important, no?!
Today, the literary journal online is thriving and in fact, it is the model for growth for all things literary. With the advent of iApp-management, quick design templates in WordPress and Tumblr with integration of social media it seems, well, like I’m cutting my grass with dull scissors by continuing to run Our Stories this way.
So where are we headed? Our Stories has published work for 6 years, interviews with lots of notables. We helped the careers of some fine writers and I’ve quipped and parloured my own thoughts on the literary market every quarter. To that end, we now come to us—where we are as a writer community. It certainly has been worth it, all of the work that has gone into it for the past 6 years but I openly have quibbled as a man in his mid-30’s whether I can continue to adequately serve as this journal’s cheerleader, editor in chief, designer and steward in a manner that serves the audience, the writers and my staff to the best of my ability. I have known for quite a while that things must change. I have kvetched to too many of my friends and family over the years to not do something.
We have always given feedback to the work we have received. When I was younger and nimbler and did not mind sacrificing my own life on the altar of the literary market place I found this work invigorating. I enjoyed hashing and rehashing conversations with strangers about how to get their work in a better place. The sad truth has been though that this model has not taken off. While Narrative Magazine has had the insulting submission system by way of asking strangers to send 20 dollars so they could reject you with no feedback and only an e-response, with the hope—hope—that you could be published online, I have to admit: the literary world shrugged. Perhaps they have taken advantage of the reality TV–me-a-star-me-generation or maybe there’s something wrong with Our Stories. Maybe a journal built around letting you know why you’re not a star is flawed, does selling the truth actually work? The fact is that was no mass migration to a more holistic or what I sometimes call humanist system at Our Stories or copycat population of literary journals that took our model and ran with it (something I have encouraged and begged other journals to do.
Finally though, I have to take care of myself in this process. I have a novel that is about to be finished and another one that is lying in a state of degradation. I don’t know the last time that I sat down to work on my own short stories. As friends and colleagues are advancing their careers and accumulating posts and publications I’ve been trying to take care of the whole world with this literary journal. What at first started as a system of progress and community has quickly become a burden that I can no longer manage in its current state.
Here’s where we are headed: we will discontinue publishing a finite cache of authors on a quarterly basis after the summer 2012 issue. We have collected the short story submissions for our Flash Fiction contest and that issue will be the last contest that we run.
In the fall of 2012 we will begin our new business model which will be the publishing of revised short stories that we have worked on in a souped up new website. Everyone who does a workshop with us at Our Stories (no matter the length of that workshop) will have one of their short stories published by our staff. We will publish one of the final drafts (if the workshop has more than one story) and a PDF version of the first draft that had our edits in the manuscript, you’ve seen these PDF versions before and there is a fancy YouTube video here that shows you how we go about editing a manuscript. So, we’re still publishing short stories but we’re trying to find a more direct way to show you the readers what we do. You, the readers will have the opportunity to see not only the final edited manuscript but we will be publishing the initial feedback that we gave to the writer as a marked up PDF. While this brings up moral/litjournal/hyperventilating/rheumatic fever thoughts in my mind of a pay-to-play scenario at Our Stories, I believe it is more of our true business model.
In the end, we have to take care of ourselves. We hope you’ll be around to work with us.