Dispatches | April 28, 2014

By Michael Nye

This weekend was our annual Editors’ Prize weekend. We brought the winners of our 23rd Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize into Columbia this past weekend for a reading and reception and general high-quality hanging out time. TMR has been fortunate enough to receive support from a private donor to fund the prize and, for the ninth consecutive year, bring our writers to town.

The writers–Kai Carlson-Wee, Melissa Yancy, and David Zoby–were wonderful people. Given that they had to travel on Friday, they held up remarkably well all weekend. It’s a thrill to have them in town, but anyone who has made weekend trips knows how exhausting all the airport madness can be on the mind and body. I met Kai briefly at this year’s AWP Conference, but this was my first time meeting Melissa and Dave. All three of them are smart, charming, confident people, and it was great to spend a few hours with them.

For the second year in a row, we were fortunate enough to have the Editors’ Prize issue available at the reading. It showed up on Tuesday, just four days before the event. For the writers and our readers to be able to see the work while listening to the reading is a nice added bonus. We had a full house at the reading Saturday night, with many of our donors and readers able to come out and mingle, tell their best knock-knock jokes, and generally have a wonderful time.

Pulling off the Editors’ Prize weekend is a major task, and there are several people who need to be acknowledged for their hard work. Our marketing director, Kris Somerville, had so much to juggle this week, with multiple schedules and venues, plenty to coordinate, and she made it all run smoothly. Our intern staff helped with promotion, transportation, greetings, and making everyone feel welcome. Our readership and the supportive Columbia community not only made this weekend happen, but made it worthwhile, exciting, and reminded us all of what a great city we have here. Finally, our writers: for all the planning we do, it really comes down to the writers (who we usually have never met), and Kai, Melissa, and Dave were absolutely wonderful.

Thank you, one and all, for making our prize weekend such a huge hit!


In my publishing class last week, we had our fourth and final Skype conversation. We spoke to Dave Housley, one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse. Like many independent literary magazines, Barrelhouse was founded on the premise of “Well, why not?” when five friends, after weeks of talking about it, decided at a bar (hooray, beers!) to start a magazine.

Barrelhouse is an eclectic and fun magazine, one that embraces pop culture as being part of the literary zeitgeist rather than being elitist. As with all the magazines we spoke to this semester, the personality of the editor has a clear imprint on the content that is published in the magazine. With magazines like Hobart and Barrelhouse, this is relatively consistent, in that they’ve had many of the same editors for years. Gulf Coast too has a specific aesthetic, but with the editors changing every two years, even if they are all in the same graduate program, the magazine’s taste changes a bit too.

One of the neat things about Barrelhouse is that they do more than just a literary magazine. They have started publishing books, with two currently out and more on the way; hold an annual conference, Conversations and Connections; and offer an online workshop. Some of this is necessity, some of it is just fun, and often, it’s a mixture of the two.

Perhaps the thing I’m most excited about with Barrelhouse is Book Fight, the new podcast by editors Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister. Very broadly, it’s about books. In their own words, “Book Fight aims to capture the conversations writers have about books when they think no one’s listening: funny, passionate, sometimes contentious, and always honest.” The quality of the audio recording is excellent and, even more rare, the cohesion between Mike and Tom is perfect. I’m a tough critic, but those two are genuinely funny and smart, the kind of give-and-take that televisions shows will look for (often unsuccessfully) for years. Definitely subscribe to Book Fight.

There are just two more classes (!!!) left in the semester. Why I’m still surprised at how fast the semester goes, I don’t know …

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye