Dear MFA Community,
As foretold at the January residency, the MFA program is ready to launch a new online journal, as of yet untitled. I have approval to offer a Graduate Assistantship for the remainder of this semester to the inaugural Editor of the journal. The stipend for this semester is ~$1900. I have requested that the stipend be ~$4000 per semester next year.
I am providing here a description of the work of the Editor for Spring and Summer 2013. Please note that the stipend is in exchange for working in the Spring semester only. The Editor will be expected to continue work on the journal through the summer, even though there is no stipend in the summer. Continuing status for the Editor into the Fall semester will partially depend upon the inaugural Editor’s performance (as judged by the MFA Coordinator) and the academic standing of the Editor. It is unadvisable for any thesis-semester student to work as Editor, for the sake of both the journal and the thesis.
If you are interested in applying for the Editor position, please 1) go to the Graduate Studies website immediately and submit a GA application and 2) email me to let me know you are interested. Indicate on the form that you are specifically interested in the MFA Journal assistantship. If you are already a GA, you do not need to fill out another form—just inform me that you are interested. I will interview all candidates and will select the Editor as soon as possible. I hope to begin interviews by the end of next week. I’m not sure what the restrictions are on the number of GA assignments students can hold in a particular semester. I am trying to find that out from Grad Studies. I also have a request in to Grad Studies to find out whether GAs are required to be on campus. As far as I’m concerned that should not be a requirement for this position, but university regulations may say otherwise. If you are out of the area and are interested, go ahead and apply, and we’ll figure that out later.
Note that there will be other staff positions on the journal (such as perhaps Fiction Editor, Poetry Editor, Copy Editor, Images Editor, etc.), but those will be volunteer positions. Students in those positions (as well as the Editor) may use the positions for their Internship requirement.
This will be exciting work, but it will be work. If you are concerned about time commitment with this position, you should not apply.
The Editor this semester will be responsible for all work involved in establishing the journal: you will work with the MFA Coordinator to staff the journal and name it; create bylaws and working practices; establish a working relationship with university publications and/or university computing; make decisions on format and frequency of the journal; establish a plan for the first issue; publicize the journal and put out calls for submissions; manage and read submissions; oversee the rejection/acceptance/solicitation process; work toward production of the first issue; other issues pertaining to the maintenance of a professional literary publication. The Editor will be expected to work 15-20 hours per week on the journal.
Rationale for the Journal:
In its Hallmarks of an Effective Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing, AWP cites publication of a literary magazine or affiliation with a small press as the kind of “Unique Educational Feature” and “Program Asset” that are essential parts of “any setting conducive to graduate work.” The MFA program needs to fill a void in this area that is crucial to its academic mission; but it also has an opportunity to innovate in a way that brings at least two programs into collaboration.
History of the Idea:
In August 2012, Marilyn Nelson (former Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut and newly elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets) visited the August residency of the MFA program. Nelson gave a reading that included material from her book Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. The Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury had commissioned Nelson to compose a sequence of poems inspired by a skeleton that had been in the museum’s collection for over 200 years. The skeleton belonged to a man, Fortune, who had been enslaved in Waterbury. The work and the reading were powerful and moving, and in a discussion with students the following morning Nelson suggested that her project could be repeated with other collections and other museums in a literary journal dedicated to that mission. The MFA program now takes on Nelson’s charge with the creation of [Unnamed Journal], and Nelson has agreed to serve as a volunteer advisor to the journal.
Staffing the Journal:
[Unnamed Journal] is a publication of the MFA program, and an MFA student on Graduate Assistantship will serve as the Editor. The MFA Coordinator will serve as Primary Advisor to the journal. The Coordinator of Museum Studies will serve as Secondary Advisor to the journal and Primary Advisor to the Museum Studies students working on the journal. The Editor and the MFA Coordinator will determine additional (volunteer) editorial staff as appropriate. The Museum Studies students will serve as museum liaisons, researchers, and subject matter advisors. In the event that an MFA student is unavailable to serve as Editor, the MFA Coordinator may select a student from another program to serve as Editor.
Scope of the Journal:
In keeping with the nature of the MFA program, the journal will publish multiple genres—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction—and could also include scholarly articles. The journal also will include visuals. Each issue might focus on collections in an individual museum, or might refer to miscellaneous collections. Some issues will likely focus on Connecticut museums, but some issues will range regionally, nationally, or internationally.
Prof. Leslie Lindenauer of WCSU is in the process of proposing a new certificate program in Museum Studies. Working with [Unnamed Journal] would be an ideal opportunity for students in that program. According to her, “Fortune’s Bones is especially meaningful” to public historians and as a root idea for a journal “is wonderful, in both the contemporary and archaic meanings of the word.”
Museum Studies students will constitute a Research Board for the journal and will provide research/museum liaison/advisory service. Tasks for Museum Studies students might include researching museums or museum holdings that might be appropriate subjects for issues or features; negotiating reproduction rights with museums; obtaining reproduction files; communicating with museum officials about their holdings, the mission of the journal, and collaborations; working with museum officials and the Editor to publicize issues; assisting the Editor in reviewing and fact-checking articles and essays.
MFA students interested in serving as Editor should apply immediately. MFA students interested in serving in other staff positions should email the MFA Coordinator to express interest.