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VQR’s 2003 Prize Winners Announced
New Editor Revamps Virginia Quarterly Review, Launches Expanded Web Site, Boosts Payments To Writers

April 8, 2004 -- The Spring 2004 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review is in the mail and it’s not your grandfather’s VQR.

The latest issue of the VQR, one of the oldest literary journals in the country, is the second issue to appear under its new editor, Ted Genoways, 31, with a totally new look – a glossy cover and higher-grade paper, lots of color and new graphic elements. The Spring 2004 issue shows a full-color, comic book hero bursting the chains that bind him. Yes, Virginia, you can tell a book by its cover.

“We publish in a tough environment today, “ says Genoways, “with competition not only from other literary journals, but from the fast-paced lives that so many people lead. Our goal is to make VQR a must read, to invite our readers to travel with us beyond the headlines to a thoughtful, creative, intellectually exciting place.”

Genoways took over as editor of the VQR last July, replacing Staige D. Blackford, who had been at the helm for 28 years. Blackford died last year at 72.

Genoways faces the dual challenge of preserving the journal’s strengths, which have kept it in print for 79 years, while creating new features to appeal to young readers. What is the editorial mix that will lure readers from the Greatest Generation to Gen-X?

He sees a strong graphic character as a vital element of the new design. Not only does the current issue present the comic book story of “The Origin of the Escapist,” by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Michael Chabon and illustrator Eric Wight, but the newly created VQR Galleries offers seven pages of stunning Japanese woodblock prints from the University of Virginia Art Museum’s exhibit, “The Moon Has No Home.” And artist Nick Bantock contributes an intriguing project, “Urgent 2nd Class, Creating Faux Mail, Dubious Documents and Other Art from Ephemera.”

“I love the idea of a creativity that honors the effects of time and makes mischief with history,” Bantock writes.

Along with Chabon, other fiction contributors to the Spring 2004 issue include E.L. Doctorow, whose novels Billy Bathgate and Ragtime both won National Book Critics Circle Awards, and Stuart Dybek, poet and short-story author, whose work appears frequently in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories anthologies.

A published poet, with several national awards to his credit, Genoways has a soft spot in his heart for poetry. He has expanded that section and plans to feature a broad range of recognized and emerging talents. In the Winter 2004 issue, early 20th century translations of C.P. Cavafy by Aliki Barnstone and an essay by Michael Collier, “On Translating Medea,” signal Genoways’ interest in publishing poetry in translation.

Perhaps some of the biggest editorial changes can be seen in the area of nonfiction.

While Blackford favored historical essays, Genoways enjoys more contemporary pieces, especially those with an international angle or strong personal imprint. In the Spring 2004 issue, the travel section, Dispatch, features two striking, first-person pieces, “Capturing Saddam” by Carleton J. Phillips, who spent time in Bagdad for the State Department’s Office of Proliferation Threat Reduction, and “Inside Saddam’s Spider Hole,” a photo essay and commentary by photojournalist Chris Hondros.

Also noteworthy is a personal essay by Kathleen Spivack, “Some Thoughts on Sylvia Plath,” who relates her experience in a poetry class taught by Robert Lowell at Boston University in 1959. The students included Plath who, according to Spivack, was well read, definite in her opinions and had “absolutely no sense of humor.”

Genoways appreciates good science writing and plans to publish some from time to time, such as the piece, “Wonderful Life: Debating Evolution in the Age of DNA” by Edward J. Larson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1997.

In another new move, Genoways has carved out space for a Writing Life feature in the back of the book. In the current issue, Jahan Ramazani, professor of English at the University of
Virginia, writes about the challenges he faced editing the most recent edition of The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry.

Book review essays and short reviews, now signed by the writers, still appear, but take up less space than before.

The Winter 2004 issue of the “National Journal of Literature & Discussion,” the first VQR issue that Genoways designed from start to finish, focused on the upcoming 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Featured on its cover is the striking 1964 Norman Rockwell painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” of a black girl, guarded by federal marshals, walking to school. The issue includes personal recollections of the days of racial desegregation by author Toni Morrison and an interview of Oliver W. Hill, a lawyer on the Brown legal team, by civil rights leader Julian Bond.

The Summer 2004 issue will feature emerging writers.

Theodore E. Genoways

Genoways is VQR’s youngest editor. He was born in Texas and reared in Pittsburgh. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Nebraska Wesleyan in 1994, a master’s degree in English from Texas Tech University in 1996, and a master’s degree in English at the University of Virginia in 1999. While a student at U.Va., he founded the literary journal, Meridian. His subsequent work experience includes stints with the Minnesota Historical Society Press, Callaloo, a journal of African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean arts and letters, the Virginia Festival of the Book and Texas Tech University Press. He is currently working on a doctorate in English from the University of Iowa.

Genoways has received numerous honors for his poetry, including a 2002 Pushcart Prize, the Natalie Ornish Poetry Award and a John Ciardi Fellowship in Poetry. His work has been published by Shenandoah and Southern Poetry Review.

He has put a new poetry board in place at the VQR, consisting of Chairman David Lee Rubin, Angie Hogan and Karen Kevorkian.

VQR Web Site
The new VQR Web site — http://www.virginia.edu/vqr —has been totally redesigned and expanded to incorporate many new features.

The full content of the current issues now are posted on the Web site. For the time being, access is free. Visitors to the site also may subscribe to VQR online or donate to the publication to support related activities, which include a scholarship program for the University of Virginia Young Writers Program and an award program for writers. A selection of local literary events also is posted.

Links to related sites include literary magazines, general magazines, online magazines, book reviews, organizations for writers and digital archives.

At VQR, plans are underway to create online archives to post content from back issues. Since 1925, VQR has published a virtual Who’s Who of authors. It counts D. H. Lawrence and Andre Gide among its first contributors, and has published many others, including Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Wolfe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, H.L. Mencken, Robert Frost and George Kennan.

VQR Prize Winners for 2003
Recognizing the impact of inflation on the writing life, the VQR has doubled the monetary awards for its annual Emily Clark Balch Prizes, awarded for short fiction and poetry, from $500 to $1,000 each. The journal also has established a new prize in short nonfiction in honor of Staige Blackford, also in the amount of $1,000.

VQR Prize winners for 2003 are:

  • Emily Clark Balch Prize for Short Story – Enid Shomer for “Chosen” (Winter)
  • Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry - Charles Harper Webb for “The Open-Air Concert Survived a Shaky Start” and “A Meal Not Eaten” (Summer)
  • Staige Blackford Prize for Nonfiction - C. Knight Aldrich, M.D., for “A National Disgrace” (Winter) and James Axtell for “What’s Wrong — and Right — with American Higher Education”(Spring).

For Writers
VQR is always looking for good writing that is both intelligent and passionate, according to Genoways.

“It’s gotta have heart,” he says. “Without emotional power, a piece won’t make it into the magazine.”

Fiction is highly competitive. VQR receives submissions from the country’s top writers and has seen a 30 percent increase in submissions since its new Web site went up last December. But one of the exciting aspects of editing a literary journal is discovering new talent. So, fiction writers should feel free to submit, but not be discouraged if they don’t get in.

In contrast, the journal is always short of good nonfiction. Currently, Genoways is commissioning two-thirds of the nonfiction pieces that appear, but hopes that unsolicited submissions will increase. Three opportunities in short nonfiction include the VQR’s new Dispatch series, which features thoughtful travel–style essays on events and places in the news. The Writing Life offers a place for personal essays of up to 2,500 words on some aspect of living with books, writers, optimism and despair. Humor works. Also, personal essays on a broad range of topics, from 3,000 to 7,000 words, with a distinctive voice and an interesting point of view. Any topic that engages current issues will be considered. Again, humor is appropriate.

Writers should anticipate the news cycle and calendar year as much as possible, submitting ideas up to six months in advance of desired publication. In some cases, VQR can respond quickly to current events and publish material received up to one month in advance. But generally, the longer the advance, the better the chances of publication.

For the Fall 2004 issue, which will be published Sept. 7, the submission deadline is June 1. (No new fiction will be considered between June and September.) For the Winter 2005 issue, which will be published Dec. 15, the deadline for submission is Oct. 1.

Genoways plans to publish a special issue every year and a half. The next one will appear in the Spring 2005 issue in honor of the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Along with other changes in the journal’s operations, VQR has increased its payment rates. Writers now are paid $100 per published page for fiction and nonfiction and $5 a line for poetry, with a minimum payment of $200 for poetry.

Submission guidelines can be found on the VQR Web site at: http://www.virginia.edu/vqr/page.php/prmID/12.

Writers should be familiar with the journal before submitting.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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