Ploughshares is a literary magazine that was first created by DeWitt Henry and Peter O’Malley in 1970. The idea for the magazine was thought up in a bar in Cambridge, MA called Plough Stars. The magazine was created in hopes of creating a literary outlet for young writers in the New England area. Today, the magazine is run out of Emerson college. Ploughshares currently published four issues a year, and has a guest editor for each issue. Previous writers featured include Tim O’Brien, Richard Yates, and Brian Moore.
Katie Matkov (Susquehanna University) conducted an interview with Andrea Martucci, the managing editor of Ploughshares.
How did you become interested in becoming an editor? What was your first job in the editing community, and how did you end up working for Ploughshares?
I started working in publishing when I was still in high school. I worked in the editorial and production department of a small town newspaper and wrote a column and reviews. Initially I was more interested in writing, but that job spawned my love of publishing. When I was a sophomore at Emerson College, majoring in writing, literature, and publishing, I co-founded a lifestyle magazine for Emerson College students. As editor-in-chief, I was in charge of everything, which gave me a great introduction to all of the jobs in magazine publishing beyond the editorial side.
After I graduated with my BA, I worked for a writer who was working on a non-fiction book, and a screenplay based on the same story. I was doing mostly developmental editing. After doing that for about a year, I was invited to apply for the job at Ploughshares after some professors I had worked with while at Emerson recommended me to the EIC, based on the work I had done on the lifestyle magazine.
[Since I’ve been at Ploughshares, I’ve also earned a MA in Integrated Marketing Communication.]
As managing editor, what are your main responsibilities at the magazine? What is your favorite part of the job?
I’m the managing editor/managing director, and my job is mostly managing: editorial flow, production, marketing, circulation, staff, distribution, the website and blog, and lots of other odds and ends. I do very little actual editing!
Who has your favorite guest editor of the magazine been?
Definitely Jim Shepard, because his particular style of writing is the kind of writing I’m most drawn to and I loved every single story he selected. All of the guest editors have been fabulous to work with!
What is the submission process for the magazine? Are there reading boards, if so, about how many people read each piece before it is picked to be published? What do you look for most in a good piece of prose? Form? Content? Good writing? Uniqueness?
Since I don’t do any reading for the magazine, I’ll let this blog post explain the process (it goes into how reading works too): http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/behind-the-scenes-at-ploughshares/
[FYI, Andrea Drygas is my married name – this was published before I was married.]
What are the future goals of Ploughshares? Where do you hope to take the magazine as managing editor?
My goals mainly have to do with increasing our circulation and our visibility. I’d like to continue to expand our reach with digital publications (Ploughshares Solos, digital-only single stories; digitizing back issues), and expand the audience for our print publication.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students hoping to get into the editing and publishing world?
I think the most important thing undergraduate students can do is get involved in student publications and also get experience working in the real world, either through internships or jobs. Don’t focus too narrowly on one thing at this stage, because you never know what kind of skills and knowledge will come in handy in the future. Be open to opportunities and experiences, even ones that don’t immediately interest you based on what you know about them.
If you really want a job when you graduate, get experience in digital publishing. It is an area that is growing when most other areas are shrinking. Having experience in digital publishing might get you a job where you get to do other things you love, so even if it doesn’t totally appeal to you, learn it!
The website defines “Ploughshares” as “The sharp edge of a plough that cuts a furrow into the earth”, how do you see the magazine living up to this definition?
I believe that the founders of the magazine used the name Ploughshares as an homage to the biblical phrase, “turning swords into ploughshares,” (i.e. take the sword used to fight to instead cut into the earth and grow something productively). The founders decided that instead of arguing among themselves about what was “good,” they would publicly use each issue to create a conversation about the diversity of quality writing. We continue to have guest editors, and every issue is different from the last and the ones before that. I see Ploughshares living up to this definition by continuing the conversation.
What part of the Ploughshares history do you find the most interesting, and why?
I think the story of the founding is really fascinating. Ploughshares was basically started in a bar, the Plough and Stars in Cambridge, MA. It started with an argument between writers about what kind of writing was “the best” writing. They decided that there was no “best,” and that there were various aesthetics that could all be argued to be quality writing. That’s how they decided on the guest editor format.
Does Ploughshares have any quirks or traditions that are unknown to the readers?
The office staff seems to spend a lot of time talking about meals we have prepared or are planning on preparing. We stand around talking about ingredients (Garlic! Bourbon! Bacon!) and discussing various preparation methods (Slow cooker? Broiler? Grill?). Since many on the staff are writers, the descriptions are mouth-watering. Many of the staff also make baked goods and bring them in to share.
Andrea Martucci is currently the managing editor for Ploughshares. Andrea has a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and an MA in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College. Before working at Ploughshares, Andrea founded a lifestyle magazine, worked for a newspaper, and edited a screenplay.