Thursday, August 3, 2006

In the Grove Turns Ten

So I have never written about this. It's hard to believe, but it's been ten years since I founded In the Grove: California Poets and Writers. Back in '96, the first issue was basically some friends of mine who were writing poetry and some theory, and I threw together the magazine on my desktop. It's always been a small operation, as most small presses are, but over the ten years I have had many proud moments. We've had many readings---at Barnes and Noble, at various coffee shops, and most recently at the Fresno State's Bonner Auditorium. We've had a number of cover images---my wife's amazing photographs from China, a reproduction of some of my mother's paintings, and most recently, photographs of the featured writer. We've published a number of "emerging" writers I love---Gillian Wegener of Modesto, Mike Medrano (formerly of Fresno)---some former students of mine who are very talented: Rebecca Jaech, Olivia Shaver, Julie Kim Garcia----and some fairly prominent poets and writers: Martin Espada, Charles Harper Webb, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Amy Uyematsu, and many others. Our fall issue is crammed full o' goodness from Espada, Nick Carbo, Glover Davis, Denise Duhamel, John Hales, Tim Z. Hernandez, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sam Pierstorff, and many others. We've had three editors: myself (for about 12 of the 14 issues we've published), Michael Roberts, whose book called The Particulars of Being I published a couple of years ago, and now Stephen Barile, who is doing a fine job with the magazine.

In the first year, it was a quarterly, which was insane. Anyone who has edited a print magazine knows how difficult it is to stay on top of it all (much less when you are teaching full-time)---soliciting and advertising (never my forte), reading and selecting, corresponding with writers, arranging layout and production, working with printers, mailing and distribution, fundraising, tracking subscriptions, shelf sales and working with bookstores, and of course, the readings. It can get tiring. I began In the Grove with a strong dose of naivete but a larger dose of passion to create a diverse space where "first timers" could publish alongside more experienced poets. I also wanted to keep it regional. So I love it when our issues include a mother or father of two or a factory worker alongside a major prize winner. I love that the magazine is still going after ten years, despite our irregular publishing schedule and our constant financial woes. I love that it's survived my neglect during overseas summer travel and that people still send us their work. I love, despite several people's very understandable attempt to have it "go national," it has remained a California magazine, with a focus on Central Valley writers or people who have lived or worked in California. I love that we published the title poem of the late, great Andres Montoya's book, the ice worker sings and other poems, for which he won the American Book Award posthumously. This was a man of presence. We used to sit at the Revue and talk poetry and politics, Miloscz and Latin America. I love that people are loyal to it. I love that Josh Daughdrill has been the nonfiction editor since day one and that Optimism One edited the poetry all those years and believed it could keep surviving. I love that.

I'm glad that Stephen has infused it with some new energy, because I had become the type of editor I used to complain about, forgetful and slow (well, maybe I was always forgetful and slow). I'm glad that Erik Fritz, our incredible web designer, gave it its new, updated look. I doubt anybody remembers our old site---probably because you couldn't find it. I created it myself on a free program, and it had banner ads and one helluva long URL, something like www.tripoddotleeherrickdotinthegrovedotyou'renevergonnafindthissogoodluck so it's been a massive shot in the arm to have Erik's talents on board.

I'm glad that writers can take rejection from us. We all have to, you know? We accept about 10% of what we receive. I'm glad our readers are nice people. In my ten years of editing I have only had two irate readers write me hate mail (boy, those were fun). I'm glad that people get behind it and want to support it. I've been corresponding with a really nice woman in town about the possibility of creating a board of trustees along with a grant writer, to potentially fully fund the magazine. How great that would be! Although Stephen is doing the lion's share of the work now and I mainly serve now as publisher along with bringing in a writer or two now and then, I still get the editorial urges. Some of you know what I'm talking about---that simulatneous feeling of fatigue and pride that comes with being an editor, that love for publishing good writing, that rush. It's thankless sometimes, but there's nothing like seeing that box full of issues ready to be sent out.

I'm glad that I have been able to let go (just a little) in order to let it grow. I can be stubborn and have a hard time letting go (it's been ten years, after all). But it's been a great trip, and I imagine the next ten years hold good things as well. Cheers.

7 comments:

barbara jane said...

lee, awesome post. it's nice to know how thoughtful an editor you are (as if i didn't already know this :-), and in the grove is a great project. honored to me a part of it, so thank you for that. and with such the awesome line-up!

Lee Herrick said...

hey, thank you, barbara. it seems like each issue gets better and better. we're honored to have you in it!

it really is a labor of love, as they say. (more love than labor, of course.)

daddy in a strange land said...

Congrats, Lee!

Jae Ran said...

Congratulations on the anniversary and hope you have another ten!

Lee Herrick said...

Thank you DISL and Jae Ran! It feels good to have hit ten.

inuit said...

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Anonymous said...

Congratulations Lee and In The Grove, ITG has definitely played a major role in ensuring the continuance of the central valley literary legacy!--Tim