Nothing helps a literary journal clarify its personality like trying to stand out at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. The annual AWP get-together is one of the largest of its kind. This year’s event, held in the midst of a Boston blizzard, attracted more than 12,000 attendees.
This was the first trip to an international literary gathering that Little Patuxent Review had taken. We were but one of 750 exhibitors and shared a table with one of our real-life neighbors, The Baltimore Review. Tucked into a corner of the second exhibit floor, I’m sure that all 12,000 visitors did not make it to our table. Even so, plenty of people stopped to chat about our journal. By day three, I realized that there were consistent themes in their comments.
First, many people were drawn to our table by our striking journal covers, featuring works by acclaimed artists Joan Bevelaqua, Raoul Middleman and Theaster Gates, not to mention a Renaissance masterpiece. The quality of the overall look, resulting from the excellent work of Design Editor Deb Dulin and her predecessor, Stephanie Lemghari, also surprised and impressed writers who had been perusing literary journals all day long.
People also mentioned the general excellence of our product. In addition to design, the paper quality and full-color spreads stood out among the other journals.
Second, many appreciated our strong community focus. LPR operates as a collective of creative artists, suppliers and supporters. This sense of a group effort extends to our contributors, past and present. The ways in which we have accomplished this include:
Since our inception, we have worked with a small local company instead of opting for a less expensive out-of-state or big-box printer.
Contributors are invited to read at the launch of each issue, which has brought people from as far away as California to Columbia, Maryland. For the past two years, we have also scheduled at least one additional event per issue, holding readings at the Columbia Festival of the Arts, The Writer’s Center, the CityLit Festival, Busboys and Poets, the Baltimore Book Festival and other venues. Even a converted post office!
Launch readings are videotaped whenever possible. A separate video of each contributor, posted on our YouTube channel and linked to the online table of contents of our issues, makes them available to the general public.
Website and Blog
Led by Online Editor Ilse Munro, the LPR site is anything but static, offering outstanding original content on a weekly and, increasingly, a bi-weekly basis.
We post reviews of books authored by our contributors and others from around and beyond the greater Baltimore-Washington area. Some contributors participate in the popular “Concerning Craft” series. This gives our writers and artists the opportunity to share insights on how they came to create the pieces appearing in our publication. In addition, we post articles aimed at helping potential contributors improve both their writing skills and submission strategy (and include links on our Submissions page). Finally, we provide personal introductions to other area arts organizations such as The Baltimore Review in our ongoing “Meet the Neighbors” series.
We also have several online series that expand upon the themes that define our various print issues. “On Being Invisible,” for example, serves as the online companion for our Winter 2012 Social Justice issue. This gives a range of blog contributors the opportunity to discuss the role of literature and art in our community and larger society. (We hear you! Based on your feedback, our editorial staff is looking into the possibility of publishing one unthemed issue per year.)
Which takes me to the third and most important theme that emerged regarding what sets us apart: we want your input, and we are more than willing to act on it when possible.
All of these elements—our sustained focus on publishing a high quality product with visual as well as literary content, our continual commitment to community, our ongoing engagement with a our core constituency—serve to characterize the special place that Little Patuxent Review occupies among the other literary journals.
Since it was revived in 2006, Little Patuxent Review has used the arts as a lens through which to view ourselves and our society. Each new issue, each new post on our website is a springboard for discussing the achievements and challenges that humanity faces.
That discussion has included interviews with luminaries such as Michael Chabon, Edith Pearlman and Martín Espada side by side with works from emerging authors such as Dylan Bargteil, Angie Chuang and Liam Casey. We invite you to join the conversation by submitting your work, commenting on our blog posts or volunteering to work with us.
I thank all the contributors and fans—long-time and new—who visited with us at AWP. Like us, you believe that the arts reflect the sum of our fears and hopes for the world.
Online Editor’s Note: As part of our continuing commitment to contributors, we are preparing to launch a new series, “First and Foremost,” featuring authors whose debut literary works have been published by Little Patuxent Review. Our first “first” will be Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, an accomplished writer and editor who recently expanded her scope to encompass short fiction. Watch for other developments as well as our first Assistant Online Editor Leila Warshaw starts to makes her presence felt.