AND WE’RE OFF!

Dear Everyone,

A quick note to welcome our readers, and submitters, back from the summer, parts of which I spent focused on the woolly adelgids currently munching their way through the hemlocks in my yard. (First the elms and the chestnuts, then the ashes, now the hemlocks ....)

On a more positive note: thanks for checking in. As most of you know, a few years ago West Branch—with magnanimous support from our sponsoring institution—went from four issues per year (two print, two web) to six (three print, three web). We've also upgraded our design a bit. And we're extremely excited about our current issues. West Branch 84 (print) includes poems by some of our favorite contemporary poets, including Rae Armantrout, Karen An-hwei Lee, Cody-Rose Clevidence, and Natalie Scenters-Zapico, plus an apocalypse from Nathan Oates. West Branch Wired includes fiction selected by Peter Ho Davies as well as poems by Devon Walker-Figueroa and Peter Twal. Both issues showcase a fantastic feature edited by former Stadler Fellow E.G. Means. If you haven't seen a copy of the print issue, do order one.

I also want to welcome back, from last year, our two current Stadler Fellows: the extraordinary Monica Sok and David Winter.

David and Monica serve as West Branch's associate poetry editors. (For those who care about such things: currently West Branch has a working staff of twelve, namely myself; managing and reviews editor Andrew Ciotola; Associate Poetry Editors Monica and David; two undergraduate interns at any given time; five off-site associate editors in fiction; and one associate editor in creative nonfiction. More about our incomparable associate editors in prose in a later post.)

Our on-line submission manager opened on 8/1, so please, send us your best, most challenging work! (Please also refer to our submission guidelines. To which there is one recent change: we're now requesting that writers only submit twice in a given academic year, unless we specifically request otherwise. As much as we love reading your work, the numbers have risen to the point that we need to lower the annual boom from three to two.)

A word about submission response times: as most who submit to us know, we respond to almost everything we receive, that we are not going to publish, within 2-3 weeks, very often in as little as 2-3 days. We pride ourselves in this: as a writer myself, I always appreciate it when journals make the professional effort to get back to me quickly. Occasionally, we receive a complaint from a writer who feels our alacrity can't possibly indicate we gave his or her work the attention it deserved, that somehow a swift response indicates disrespect. On the contrary: every submission we receive gets at least one close reading, often several. We consider our response times an indication of the professional esteem in which we hold all writers.

Only a handful of pieces make it through the early rounds of reading, and those we keep for up to 3-4 months. We hardly ever keep anything for more than 4 months—and when we do, I usually send the author a back-channel email clarifying the submission's status. Which means: if you haven't heard from us in two months, please check your submission's status in our OSM. Sometimes emails get lost in the ether, and sometimes submissions don't go through to start with. Also, we generally clear the decks in late April: this past year, we cleared all but four of 10,000+ pieces by the first week of May. So if you're one of the sixteen Duotrope users currently reporting live submissions from last year, you're … a little behind the times. As per our guidelines, we welcome queries after the four-month mark has passed.

We get inquiries occasionally about book reviewing. West Branch prides itself in our longstanding reviews section, which features multi-book review-essays (alongside occasional one-off micro-reviews by our staff). We're actively seeking new reviewers this fall. Leaving aside those staff-written micro-reviews, we only review poetry, and only in essay format. We're very open to whatever the reviewer is interested in reviewing (although we also keep a healthy shelf of review copies, including books by our recent contributors). If you're interested, take a look at some of our recent review-essays, which appear in print and then later on-line. Then contact book review editor Andrew Ciotola (ciotola@bucknell.edu), providing some background about yourself and a sample of your critical prose. We'd be glad to hear from you.

Finally, warm congratulations to Blair Hurley, whose haunting story "The Home for Buddhist Widows," from West Branch 81, was selected for a Pushcart Prize. The stories you send us don't have to have happy endings, but we admit we're fond of them in real life.

Wishing all the best, 

G.C. Waldrep (Editor, West Branch)

June 2015

Now that summer is here, the West Branch submissions queue is quiet, I want to take a moment to recognize the journal’s Contributing Editors. Various journals use their contributing editors in various ways. Here at West Branch, we’re glad to have them associated with our journal, and with the project of contemporary literature that journal represents. Some of them steer work our way by writers we might have missed; some of them also contribute micro-reviews for the Marginalia section of our print journal.

March 2015

I was planning to take a moment to recognize a rather lengthy slate of recent and forthcoming publications from our contributing, advisory, and associate fiction editors, who are wonderful on their own grounds, I mean beyond all they do for WB. But first, I want to crow a bit that this year West Branch will be featured in both Best American Short Stories (edited by T.C. Boyle) and Best American Poetry (edited by Sherman Alexie). Congratulations to Sarah Kokernot and Natalie Scenters-Zapico!

February 2015

I've always loved when (other) editors post lists of the topics they've seen far too much of, or (more rarely) not enough of. It's a guilty pleasure, if for no other reason than that I immediately embark upon a delightful thought experiment trying to stitch together as many proscripted elements as I can into a single story or poem of my own. But it's also a more serious reflection of one aspect of what we do as editors, what we have access to: an evolving, scintillating core sample of immersive culture. To work in an editorial queue is to see what's out there ... and to think about what's not.

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