West 10th, Becca Stevenson (Interview)
Interviewed by Selena Perez
West 10th is the NYU Creative Writing Program’s Undergraduate Literary Journal. The editorial board is comprised of students who convene to edit, curate, and produce a yearly issue of poetry, prose, and art that is rich in unique ideas and cultures. West 10th positions itself as a place of community and belonging both in their organizational endeavors and in the contents of their publication. By welcoming such a vast range of perspectives to dance alongside each other across the pages of the journal, West 10th creates a tapestry of narratives that illuminate the essence of New York City. In this interview, I speak with the Editor-In-Chief, Becca Stevenson, on the philosophy of the publication, as well as her personal experience in this position.
Selena: What initially drew you to the idea of working with literature from the editorial side of things? Moreover, how has the experience affected your own writing?
Becca: I was drawn to the editorial side of things because I like literature and I like people, and as a sophomore in college, becoming an editor was the only thing I knew of that combined those two interests. To my knowledge, there still isn’t any organization at NYU that involves asking a lot of smart people to send you their writing, reading it, and then sitting in a room to discuss it with a separate group of equally smart people (usually over snacks). I’m still pretty amazed that I ever got to be part of a process like that at all, much less for three years.
The experience has affected my writing in two ways, mainly. By reading a lot, I think you sort of naturally become a better writer, so that’s happened to me (I hope)! But the judging process has had a more dramatic impact on the way I write, in that I’m less insecure and more willing to write weirdly. I’ve now witnessed too many times another editor giving impassioned praise to a piece I couldn’t care less about, or vice versa, to really care that someone might not like the content of what I write.
Selena: As the Editor-In-Chief, what are some of your tasks and responsibilities? Which of these makes the job the most enjoyable or meaningful for you?
Becca: Well, the most important thing for me to get done as Editor-in-Chief is to make sure that by the end of February, there is an issue full of good prose, poetry, and art, ready to be sent to printers. In order to do that, I need to make sure that an editorial board is hired in September, that our web team announces a call for submissions in October, that our prose, poetry, and art editors meet to discuss submissions in January, that I read all these submissions and judge them, and that our copy editors go over all the selected pieces by the end of February. This is a good deal to keep track of, but if you have a great Managing Editor like I do (Alexandra Bentzien!), then it’s not so bad, because she does (at least) half the work.
I really do enjoy the entire production process, and I find the management of a magazine to be pretty thrilling overall. But I’ve found that the most meaningful part of being Editor-in-Chief has been the events and collaborations. This past year, for the first time, West 10th has had an event team, and they’ve been incredible. We had two open mics last semester, one in collaboration with TedxNYU. This semester, one of our poetry editors pioneered Poetry on Demand at Bobst Library and we’re doing a literary outing to one of Pen America’s World Voices Festival events. We also just had our launch party for the 2022-2023 issue! And there’s another event hosted with the Grey Art Gallery on Tuesday! This is what I love. I love the flurry of events and the coordination of schedules and I love being part of something that brings people together, all in one room, in celebration of art and love of literature. This is the most meaningful thing in my whole life. This is what moves me.
Selena: Many undergraduate journals publish on a quarterly or semesterly timeline, while West 10th publishes a yearly issue. Could you tell me a bit about why the publication i