Kim Brown is an editor at Minerva Rising Literary Journal. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Today’s Chicago Woman, Contemporary Fashion, National View, Naperville Sun, and Pitkin Review.
[James R. Gapinski]: Many writers and editors have seen the VIDA.org statistics that show low lit journal acceptance rates for women, but few actually do anything about it. What motivated you to take action, creating a women’s-only journal?
[Kim Brown]: I read somewhere that stories written by women were “small” compared to the ones written by men. That troubled me. It seemed to devalue the work of women writers and the overall experience of being a woman. But after receiving a series of rejection letters for own work, I worried that there might be some truth to that statement. I lamented to anyone who would listen that there needed to be a literary journal for women that was interested in publishing the type of stories that women write. And then I remembered a quote by Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I knew I had to create the type of journal I wanted to submit to.
[JRG]: In March 2014, you’ll give the first “Owl of Minerva” award. Can you talk a little bit about the award and the criteria you’ll be looking for in nominees?
[KB]: It has always been Minerva Rising‘s policy to give a portion of our proceeds back to women in need. In the past we have done this by donating to Women for Women International. However, we felt that we wanted to make more of an impact and the Owl Award was born. We wanted to offer one woman writer, who would otherwise not have the financial means to invest in herself as a writer, an opportunity to pursue her creative endeavors. Applicants will be required to write an essay in response to a question posted on our website. We will be looking for both need and desire.
[JRG]: You say you created the sort of journal you’d want to submit to. Can you expand on that? What are some of the aesthetic or creative approaches that best fit your style?
[KB]: I tend to write anecdotal tales of ordinary women working through the challenges of daily life. A lot of the journals I submitted to were looking for shock and awe. And while I appreciate that type of writing, I wanted a place that felt like a community of women supporting one another through the sharing of experiences and stories.
Consequently, when people ask about the aesthetic or creative approaches that best fit my style, I shudder a little. The beauty and meaning I find in writing comes from the writer’s courage and the determination to share her truth. The style or the approach isn’t as important to me. I want to get lost in the story.
[JRG]: You referenced Toni Morrison earlier. What other authors have had a major impact on your work as a writer and editor?
[KB]: There have been ten women writers in particular who have guided me throughout my journey as a writer: Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Anna Quindlen, Kate Chopin, Bebe Moore Campbell, Dorothy West, Judy Blume, Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sylvia Path
I’ve learned so much by the way each author writes about the complexity of life as a woman and/or writer. I owe every woman on the list a ton of gratitude.
[JRG]: As a fellow graduate of Goddard’s MFA program, I bet you heard the phrase “trust the process” a lot. I know this can be a big question, but what’s your process as a writer?
[KB]: Free writing plays a huge part in my process. I like to write long hand for a designated period of time or a set number of pages before I start to work on a specific piece. I use that time to clear my head and set the intention for my day. Sometimes I use my free writing to work out questions or problems that I have with my current project. There is something about actually writing on paper that primes the pump for me. Then I move to my computer to write. I prefer to work in two hour blocks. But I’m a procrastinator, so I often have to work longer to get things done when I’m under a deadline.
[JRG]: What about as an editor? Can you give a little insight into the editorial process at Minerva Rising?
[KB]: As an editor, I really prefer to read paper. When we first started Minerva Rising, I would print out every submission and read it. I’d make little notes in the margins, much like an annotation. I taught various writing classes at a small liberal arts college several years ago. Consequently, I read submissions like I was grading papers. However, as we started to grow, this became an inefficient use of resources and time. Now I read submissions on a Kindle and take notes in a notebook. I write down my impressions of the piece and whether or not it works for the current issue. I like to be specific so that we can offer feedback to the writer. The other editors may have a different process, but we all share our thoughts and notes on the piece after we have voted. This is really helpful because it gives us something to discuss as we make our final decisions.