by Drew Webster, Managing Editor, Colorado Review
As you may have heard, last week the Alaska Quarterly Review received news that it may lose funding in the near future. I learned about it on Twitter. My feed was flecked with a new hashtag: “#SaveAQR.” In case you didn’t hear, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) just finished a comprehensive “Prioritization Report” that quantifies each program and organization’s contribution to the UAA. AQR found itself in the bottom quintile of the report, the quintile being considered “for reduction or phase out.” News such as this comes hard for those of us in the literary publishing industry. The response was immediate and, in some cases, strident (if you’re interested, check out the responses from the Alaska Dispatch News, AWP, and the Missouri Review). As Michael Nye points out in his blog post for the Missouri Review, publications come and go all the time, even the good ones. Still, to see a journal with a reputation for sustained high-quality writing face possible discontinuation is something of a shock.
After talking with our editor, Stephanie G’Schwind, and doing some poking around of my own, I found that the situation for AQR may not be quite as dire as it first sounded. It’s true that AQR is not in the most stable position right now; there’s no ambiguity in being considered for “reduction or phase out,” but there are a lot of programs at UAA in the fifth quintile. One of them is their police dispatch. Another is interlibrary loan. It’s difficult to imagine a university functioning without such basic services as these. Difficult, but not impossible. I’m not saying we should assume the AQR will be fine, but I don’t think it’s time to lament its demise either.
Whatever the case may be, it got me thinking. The semester has just begun at Colorado State University, and we are again turning our attention to the various tasks required of a literary magazine (that’s not entirely true: Stephanie never turns away). For us graduate students, though, it isn’t easy establishing and maintaining the focus and perspective necessary to publish the quality writing Colorado Review is known for. We have to work at it. We read submission after submission, we read back issues of CR, we read our peers (peers such as AQR)—all in order to continue honing a particular (and fickle) aesthetic eye for literature. We copyedit, we typeset, we proofread, and we do all this and more with the assumption that the work we do matters. That it will last. That it will continue.
So when a fellow journal faces possible loss of funding, it makes us pause. What would we do if this were to happen to us—and not just Colorado Review, but any of us literary magazines? I ask because it’s only in the kind of thinking that genuinely reflects on circumstances such as this that we can really understand what it must be like to face the termination of something you’re deeply committed to. In the grand scheme of things, however, we are small. None of us are raking it in hand over fist. We’re subject to slim (and ever slimming) budgets, we make do with what we’ve got, etc. The point, though, is this: the adversity we face is also one of our greatest assets; our smallness is also what gives our community its shape and tone. We notice when our peers are struggling, and we do what we can to help one another. This doesn’t mean that we’re all going to be okay, but at least we know that if we face something hard, we won’t be facing it alone. We turn to the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, we write letters to chancellors, we tweet incessantly (in just the last half hour, there are three more tweets with the “SaveAQR” hashtag), we post on Facebook, we write blog posts, we write editorials.
For the staff at Colorado Review, this means that after we’ve voiced our support, we must also keep doing the things—the reading, the copyediting, the publishing, etc.—that keep our community relevant and thriving. In other words, we must keep doing what we do in order to keep doing what we do. I know, it’s something of a redundant statement, but I think its simple repetition proves its truth.
If you want to express support for the Alaska Quarterly Review, here are some ways to do that:
Send an email to Chancellor Tom Case at email@example.com and cc Senior Vice Provost Renee Carter-Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Send a letter to the editor at Alaska Dispatch News (under 200 words) email@example.com
Send longer pieces to Alaska Dispatch News firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve got to get back to work now.