Uncategorized | August 03, 2015


By Kristine Somerville

Three of the people pictured in this group photo have worked together for more than twenty years—that’s over a thousand weeks, five thousand days, 45,000 hours, three presidents, eight Bond movies, nine versions of Windows, countless bad haircuts and fashion trends, and 80 issues of TMR.

Off hand, I have no idea how many manuscripts I’ve read, reviews and blogs I’ve written, events I’ve planned, AWPs I attended, archives I’ve visited, “found text” and visual art features I’ve written, cover artists I’ve found, and junk mail pieces I’ve sent. It has been one long seamless buzz of activity.

Like many careers in the arts, when you are away from the office, you are never really away from the office. You are always thinking about and looking for possible content. Art galleries and museums offer endless possibilities for visual features. I found Dadaist Hannah Hoch and Pop Art bad boy Martin Kippenberger in Berlin, artwork for our covers by Alex Colville, Jana Sterbak and Anthony Tremmaglia in Canada, and letters by Jelly Roll Morton, rare turn of the century Mardi Gras costume designs, and surrealist photographs by Clarence John Laughlin in New Orleans. And so on. When I travel, I dig, snoop, poke around, and consequently I find literary and artistic goodies.

So what can I say about twenty years in the business? I’ve gained a lot of practical experience. For one thing, I know how to deal with private collectors, curators, gallerists, and archivists. I am no longer too shy to call up and negotiate the cost of publishing a famous artist or writer. Students laugh when I say this, but dead artists are impossible. They are the hardest to work with unless they’ve been gone more than seventy years, which then makes them way easier than the living.

But like any profession in the arts there is no mastery. As a writer I am besieged with the usual questions and moments of self-doubt: Have I really been doing this for twenty years? Shouldn’t it be easier? Why isn’t the prose better? Inversely as a reader I am often struck with a sense of wonder. How did they do that? Where did that extraordinary idea come from? Wow, what a voice.

I never dread coming to work. Every day is different. Fiction, poetry, and nonfiction submissions roll in on-line and a smattering come through the mail. So there’s an ever replenishing source of new material to read. Each semester we have a group of interns, some new and some returning, to assist us with our various projects and offer up their youthful perspectives. The rhythm around the office is typically quite mornings and bustling afternoons.

These days the group photos are put up on-line rather than reproduced as an eight-by-ten glossy. The one posted here is a rare memento that proves we were once young. It also reveals that I have a terrible memory. Out of the other eleven people in the picture, I can only recall the names of three while our assistant managing editor Dedra Earl can identify all but two.

Hey, so if you are in this picture, email us. We’d love to know where you are and what you’re doing.

Kris Somerville