Why Publishing?

Meet out new publishing intern, Samantha Futhey.

This past April, I attended the Association of Writers and Publishers conference in Minneapolis, representing Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment as their poetry editor. The book fair overwhelmed me in its impressive presentation of printed books and magazines piled high on tables of over 800 journals, university presses, and independent presses. Book fair attendees carted canvas totes stuffed with books. A few even had two or three bags, joking about buying another suitcase just to fly their books back with them.

Though our journal shifted to exclusively online publication several years ago, we still had a cache of older print journals arranged on our table. People didn’t gravitate immediately to the laptop displaying our website; they picked up our old print editions, asked about pricing, flipped through the bound journals. When told we only published online, some people frowned or walked away from our table. And though I’m an advocate for online journals, as they can circulate an author’s poems, stories, or essays more widely than most print journals, I understand the thrill to hold a book and read with closer attention than online journals may permit.

It’s a different experience, and most writers know that though online publication is more practical for promotion and accessibility, the romance of print publication still exists. I’ve experienced the thrill of seeing my name in print, reading the phrases I formed over many months, touching the ink, rubbing my fingers between the smooth pages. It’s a strange joy, a disembodying experience to see your words interacting with the world, floating like little puffs of air that other people breathe in. And to know that an editor somewhere read your piece over and over again, falling for each word and phrase, gives you a sense of authenticity that print reaffirms.

As a poetry editor for Flyway, I experienced the other side of writing; being the authenticator, the person who couldn’t forget a certain turn of words, evocative line breaks, haunting rhythms in the poem. My favorite part was contacting the poet, telling she or he yes to their poem and working with the poet to polish their poem to a brighter sheen. I tried to pick poems seamless in delivery, but if I truly believed in a poem that needed more attention, I would engage the poet in a dialog of craft. When I first started, I was terrified the poet would be insulted by my suggestions, doubt my knowledge, think, Who are you to tell me how to write my poems?

To my great surprise, most poets engaged with my suggestions, offering their own for lines or words that could change. My dialog with poets was based on respect, our ultimate goal to produce a poem of refined caliber. When I met some of the poets and writers we published at AWP, I could not contain my excitement; here were these people who captivated me with their language. All the back and forth emails, the hours of deliberation and discussion, felt actualized upon shaking the writers’ hands, telling them how much their work moved me and my fellow editors. This was what I had come to love about publishing; the process of discovery and tailoring to create a piece of art both writer and editor were proud to cultivate.

As an intern at Ice Cube Press, I hope to continue this dialog between writer and editor, and extend that to a readership devoted to the printed word. It is important to know relationships between writers, editors, and readers can (and should) be based on respect, on the desire to experience art that elevates, confounds, and muddies the waters of our cultural discourse.