Grist: A Journal For Writers Editor-in-Chief, Christian Anton Gerard, talks with FUSE about his experiences in editing and publishing. Grist is an annual literary magazine produced by the University of Tennessee. It features fiction, poetry, editorial interviews, and creative nonfiction discussions of craft. Grist accepts both accessible and innovative fiction from both new and established authors, and seeks mainly “quality”in their selected submissions. Grist is a forum that is strongly dedicated to creating a space for quality literature and discussions on craft.
How did you become interested in editing? How’d you end up at Grist?
Grist: The Journal for Writers is a publication of the Department of English at the University of Tennessee. We are graduate student run, which also means that our editorship changes each academic year. In that sense, I haven’t “ended up” at Grist. I’m quite fortunate to be in a graduate program so supporting of creative writing and creative writers. I have worked on Grist in every imaginable capacity, beginning as a general reader, which afforded me the opportunity to watch my colleagues and learn from their work before I was awarded the editorship this past year.
As for my interest in editing, that’s a different story. As a younger writer I didn’t understand that writers and editors work together, that editors aren’t just gate-keepers, but often (especially in this climate) writers themselves looking to publish and promote the writing that fits best with their publication’s aesthetic and mission. it’s become sort of a cliché, but editing, more often than not, is indeed a labor of love.
I love editing because it not only means I have the opportunity to read and be a part of publishing the work of so many incredible writers, but also because in doing so, I’m constantly reminded that every writer’s writing is marked by a fingerprint of sorts, a set of nuanced idiosyncrasies marking the work as their own, and picking up on all of them is at once a challenge and a gift, a reminder that the outer, no matter how guarded, is always an extension of the interior’s genuine ingenuity.
What do your duties for Grist, as head editor, involve?
As Grist’s editor-in-chief, I am responsible for every operation undertaken by the journal, from selecting the year’s staff to maintaining the journal’s website to working with readers, assistant editors, and genre editors as incoming work moves through our editorial process to the journal’s layout and design, while also running the Grist reading series and coordinating the journal’s launch in the spring of each year.
Luckily, I have an incredible staff this year, writers who ridiculously passionate about promoting contemporary literature in every way possible. They have made it possible for me to keep track of the journal’s needs and are really who deserve credit in the journal’s running. I couldn’t do it by myself. Perhaps that’s the best “duty” of editing Grist: The opportunity to work with my colleagues on a journal supporting our collective beliefs about writing and publishing in the contemporary moment.
What is your process for considering submissions? (Is there anything, in your opinion, that’s an instant turnoff? Anything that gets you to take a closer look? How far into reading a submission do you reject it?)
The only instant turn off for us is when a writer chooses to ignore our submission guidelines. Grist currently publishes 2-3% of all the submissions we receive on a yearly basis, which means A. that we receive hundreds of high quality submissions each month and B. that we’re very busy during the reading months because everything we receive is guaranteed at least two reads from a reader and editor. Magazines have guidelines because guidelines are the basis for the reading and selection process. Interrupting that process causes undue stress on a journal’s system, while also seeming to indicate a lack of understanding for those who are volunteering so much of their time to make the journal happen.