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Introducing our new fiction editors

We’re pleased to formally announce our four newest staff members: Holly Lopez, Meredith Maltby, Marina Petrova, and William VanDenBerg! They’ve already begun reading submissions and have proven themselves valuable members of The Conium Review team.

Holly Lopez is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Plots With Guns, Charlotte Viewpoint, and Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Marjorie Blankenship Melton Award in Fiction. As an editor, she appreciates when writers subvert expectations and produce stories that are fresh and unconventional. She’s most interested in strange stories that also have dimension, red-blooded characters, and effectively tap into the human condition. Some of her favorite authors include George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell.

Meredith Maltby is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and was a featured poet at Design Cloud Chicago’s HERE / NOW event. Meredith has previously published her work in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Chicago Tribune, ROAR: a literary journal for women of the arts, and Gravel Journal, among others. She appreciates interesting and strange writing from underrepresented voices. She admires and is influenced by Amelia Gray’s Gutshot, Lincoln Michel’s Upright Beasts, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Bonnie Campell’s Mothers Tell Your Daughters, and anything by Ariana Reines or Melissa Broder.

Marina Petrova was published in The Conium Review: Vol. 4, and when we posted our call for editors, she was eager to get more involved with our small press. She graduated from the MFA program at The New School in May 2014, where she had previously served as a reader for LIT. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Underwater New York, and Calliope Anthology. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories. In her non-writing life, she also works as a Business Analyst for a Media Tech company. Marina is a native Russian speaker, and growing up she was influenced by Chekhov, Nabokov, and Bulgakov. More recently, she’s become a huge fan of Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino, Ben Marcus, Junot Díaz, and George Saunders.

William VanDenBerg is a first year MFA student at Brown University. He is the author of two chapbooks: Lake of Earth from Caketrain Press and Apostle Islands from Solar Luxuriance—he’ll be signing copies of these chapbooks at our AWP Conference table in Los Angeles (table #1238). He loves the work of Donald Barthelme, Ann Quin, Lindsay Hunter, Amelia Gray, and Steven Millhauser.

Visit masthead page to learn more about these editors and the rest of our staff.

Chelsea Werner-Jatzke and James R. Gapinski share their panel picks

Two of our editors share some panels they’re excited for. Naturally, we’ll be spending a lot of time at The Conium Review table (#2025). But there will be three of us at AWP (Chelsea, James, and Uma), so hopefully we’ll all get to attend our panel/presentation wishlists.

Chelsea Werner-Jatzke’s top five eight panels (because lists of five or ten are just too neat and tidy for a badass like Chelsea):

  • Thursday, 9:00am to 10:15am. History, Speculation, and Invention in Long Form Fiction. (Christopher Robinson, Jan Elizabeth Watson, Jaquira Diaz, Melissa Falcon Field, Sebastian Stockman). Room 200 D&E, Level 2.
  • Thursday, 1:30pm to 2:45pm. The Hybrid Book: Publishing Poetry and Art Together. (Allison Campbell, Henry Israeli, Bianca Stone, Ben Fama, Elizabeth Clark Wessel). Room M100 B&C, Mezzanine Level.
  • Friday, 9:00am to 10:15am. The Ethics of Book Reviewing. (Eric Lorberer, Stephen Burt, Carolyn Kellogg, Brian Evenson, Rusty Morrison). Auditorium Room 1, Level 1.
  • Friday, 1:30pm to 2:45pm. Word Meets Image: The Video Essay. (Ned Stuckey-French, Eula Biss, Kristen Radtke, John Bresland). Room 101 F&G, Level 1.
  • Friday, 1:30pm to 2:45pm (competing against the previous panel for attention). Music in Prose: Crafting the Lyric Sentence. (Pearl Abraham, Hanna Pylväinen, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Stephanie Grant, Will Byrne). Room 200 H&I, Level 2.
  • Friday, 3:00pm to 4:15pm. Where We Begin to Revise the Poem. (Keetje Kuipers, Erica Dawson, James Harms, John Hoppenthaler, Peter Campion). Auditorium Room 1, Level 1.
  • Friday, 4:30 to 5:45pm. Let Us (Not) Teach You a Lesson: A Pleiades Writers’ Symposium on Moral Fiction.(Phong Nguyen, Bayard Godsave, Christine Sneed, Seth Brady Tucker, Michael Kardos). Room L100 D&E, Lower Level.
  • Saturday, 1:30pm to 2:45pm. Rock and Prose: Musician/Fiction Writers Reflect at the Crossroads. (Steven Ostrowski, Steve Yarbrough, Lynne Barrett, Joe Clifford). Room 208 A&B, Level 2.

James R. Gapinski’s top five panels:

  • Thursday, April 9th, 3:00pm to 4:15pm. How I Taught Then, How I Teach Now. (Joseph Scapellato,  Derek Palacio,  Cathy Day,  Matt Bell,  Jennine Capó Crucet). Auditorium Room 1, Level 1.
  • Friday, April 10th, 9:00am to 10:15am. Four Writers of Experimental Fiction Disagree. (Jeff Jackson,  Kate Bernheimer,  Susan Steinberg,  Alan Michael Parker). Room 211 C&D, Level 2.
  • Friday, April 10th, 3:00pm to 4:15pm. The Uncanny Reader: the Art of Unease in the Short Story Form. (Marjorie Sandor,  Karen Russell,  Kate Bernheimer,  Steve Stern,  Kelly Link). Room 101 H&I, Level 1.
  • Friday, April 10th, 4:30pm to 5:45pm. Fail Better: Successful Writers Talk About Failure. (M. Molly Backes,  Roxane Gay,  Megan Stielstra,  Dean Bakopoulos,  Rebecca Makkai). Auditorium Room 2, Level 1.
  • Saturday, April 11th, 1:30pm to 2:45pm. Weird Science: Strategies to Encourage Innovative Writing in the Workshop (Andrew Altschul,  Lucy Corin,  Eric Puchner,  Melanie Rae Thon,  Deb Olin Unferth). Room 200 B&C, Level 2.

“Why VIDA Matters to Me: Part I, Men Only Tell Half the Story,” by James R. Gapinski

Preamble

A few months ago, I was talking about the VIDA “count” with a friend-and-fellow-writer.  The count has been at the forefront of our editorial discussions this year—The Conium Review journal has a large gender gap, but we’re trying to change that this year and beyond.

In the middle of the conversation, my friend-and-fellow-writer said something like “I feel like, as a woman author, I should care about VIDA, but I don’t.  It doesn’t matter to me.”

“Doesn’t matter?”  I couldn’t believe it.  But over the past few months, I’ve dug deeper.  I’ve explored some critiques of VIDA, and I’ve discovered how some writers, editors, and readers consciously or unconsciously determine that underrepresentation and misrepresentation isn’t a ‘big deal.’

I can’t speak for my friend-and-fellow-writer, but I can speak for myself and why VIDA matters to me (and by extension, why the VIDA count is on The Conium Review’s radar).

Part I, Men Only Tell Half the Story

I’m getting tired of hearing the same half of the story on a continuous loop.  Certainly, there are good male authors (I hope I’m one of them), but the literary world is publishing way too many of them while simultaneously ignoring way too many women.  Sure, men are capable of writing new, innovative fiction.  However, that fiction is invariably filtered through the same gendered lens.  We can pretend that gender doesn’t matter, but we secretly know that it does.  Right?  A man, for example, could not write Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls.  A woman, for example, could not write Junot Díaz’s Drown.

It’s tough to consider “a man could not write” or “a woman could not write” arguments in isolation, because gender is just one part of who a person is.  You can easily imagine all sorts of differences between authors.  And you can imagine how every iota of difference creates a different experience and a different story and a different lens.  But on a fundamental, broad-stroke level, gender matters.  The underrepresentation of women matters.  VIDA matters.  Because if the publishing industry continues to discriminate against women, we’re ignoring half of the conversation.  We’re missing out on a huge chunk of the human experience.  We’re hearing the same monotone voice over and over, ignoring the women who have entirely unique stories to tell.  Stories that we need to hear.

The male narrative has been shoved down our throats so often that it’s all many readers know.  This brings us back to The Conium Review.  We’re guilty of having a shitty count (VIDA doesn’t officially count us, but we’ve ran our own numbers). However, we’re hitting the reset button, learning from our first four issues, and making changes at the journal.  We’re not going to get truly innovative fiction while only publishing a single worldview.

In a 2011 interview (reprinted in the anthology Paper Dreams), Cate Marvin of VIDA recalls her reaction to the first “count” in 2010; she mentions reading male-dominated literary journals, noting “The fact is, I often felt bored when reading these publications.  (And I felt guilty for being bored!)  Now I know why (whereas before, I felt I ought to be interested).”  Frankly, male authors are starting to bore me too.  It’s not that these authors don’t resonate with my experience.  Some of my favorite authors are men: Etgar Keret and George Saunders, specifically.  But other men on my list o’ faves have been replaced by Aimee Bender, Amelia Gray (super excited that she agreed to judge our Innovative Short Fiction Contest), Lucy Corin, Karen Russell, Karin Tidbeck, and other women.  They tell the other half of the story.  Women turn the literary monologue into a dialogue, and that’s pretty damn exciting.

Even if somebody overlooks the obvious social justice issues, the low publication rates of women matters because it negatively impacts the literary narrative.  We keep getting that tired monologue.  Personally, I want to read a variety of voices.  I don’t want the same ol’ same ol’.  I want to be challenged by what I read (and what I write), and that doesn’t happen when the literary community recycles the same half of the conversation in slightly different packages.  That’s why VIDA matters.  It impacts anybody who loves reading and writing—female and male alike.

About the Author:

James R. Gapinski is The Conium Review‘s Managing Editor. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. His work has appeared in theNewerYork, Line Zero, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. James lives in the Boston area with his partner, two cats, and a collection of 8-bit video games.