To Publish or Be Published…That Is the Question

Being a publisher, whether it’s for a small school-run magazine or a large international  journal, can be a tough job. It’s very time-consuming and requires a lot of patience and commitment. From personal experience, I can say I’ve probably spent an unhealthy amount of hours in front of a computer screen. It’s 100% worth it to see the finished product though.

Edition of GLR. Source:

In class, we’ve talked about the publishing process from a few different perspectives through readings such as “The Open Refrigerator” by Gerald Howard and “Callaloo: A Journal of Necessity” by Charles Henry Rowell. We’ve also looked at the importance and art of interviewing someone thanks to the piece “The Paris Review Origin Story and Their Secret to the Art of the Interview” by Maria Popova. I decided to combine the two and interview a previous Editor-in-Chief of the Great Lake Review, Ethan Gormley.

Like Popova says, “the interview itself held unique allure as its own genre of literary entertainment” (par. 11). I would say a lot of writers read for inspiration. Reading someone’s interview about why they did something relating to the world of literature should be inspiring as well. This is why I chose to interview Ethan. I got to compare his experience as EIC to mine, and also get his take on what it’s like to be published vs. how it feels to be the publisher.

So, on to the interview!

What was your greatest accomplishment as Editor-in-Chief for GLR?

“I think my biggest accomplishment as GLR’s Editor-in-Chief was the move toward slimming the book down. Before me the book was closer in thickness to a phone book than I would’ve liked, so we got a little pickier with the submissions and managed to slim it down a bit. A smaller book meant more books. The four GLR issues that I’d seen before being Editor-in-Chief only had enough copies for the contributors to have one or two. So I’m glad that at least in theory more people could be reading the magazine. I think that’s important. But really I think the best thing to happen to GLR when I was in charge was Laura Donnelly taking over as advisor. Before Laura we had a pretty hands off advisor. Laura’s influence and experience was crucial to making a progressively better magazine that would continue beyond me being Editor-in-Chief.”

Biggest hardship with that role?

GLR took up a lot of time. I didn’t have the hardest classes that year so it wasn’t a huge problem, but I could imagine that if I had been more ambitious with my class selection I would have really struggled to budget my time properly.

Were you ever published? If so, how did it feel compared to publishing someone else’s work?

I was published in the SUNY-wide lit. mag Gandy Dancer while I was Editor-in-Chief of GLR, or maybe the year before that. I can’t exactly remember. It was a good feeling being published, probably a better feeling than publishing other people’s work exactly for that reason: I did the work, sent in my piece, and now someone else had to deal with all the budget problems and formatting and proofreading and editing and the other hair-thinning ordeals. I was recently published in an online lit. mag. called the Sourland Mountian Review. They’re a new magazine and it took them an extremely long time to publish their first issue because, I suspect, the editors weren’t familiar with all of the problems and details that come with trying to publish a magazine. It’s a tough thing to do, I imagine, at any level. I also spent some time as a reader for Harpur Palate, SUNY Binghamton’s graduate-run magazine, reminding me of all the time and effort even being a reader for a magazine can be. Very worth it, but difficult.

What do/did you look for when selecting what pieces went in the book?

My biggest thing when reading all the submissions is finding the story’s hook. I can’t speak for poetry so much, but I’m sure it’s somewhat similar. If the story doesn’t pull you in then why bother. There’s too much to read for an editor and everyday reader alike. The writer’s first job is to give the reader a reason.

GLR Mug. Source:

Let’s take a break from the interview for a moment and connect this with “The Open Refrigerator.” Howard says, “…at the primal level where reader meets text and experiences emotions ranging from boredom to impatience to I-love-this-and-have-to-have-to-publish-it excitement…” (194). This is what Ethan is talking about. Either you’re intrigued, or you’re not. The works of literature that get you excited or get you thinking are the ones you want to publish; not the ones that don’t evoke any response or emotion.

I agree with Howard’s statement based on my own experience as Editor-in-Chief for the Great Lake Review. I’ve always loved reading and writing, so I jumped at the chance to join GLR when I first heard about it. It’s really interesting to go through all the submissions and see what makes the final cut, and then see how those pieces speak to one another. It all depends on one’s taste, so something I might think is great, the person next to me might not really care for. It’s hard saying sending rejection letters to those who didn’t make it in the journal, but it’s part of the process. There are some works that come in that make me wish I had written them, and they inspire me. That’s what the best part of the process is for me at least.

Now, back to the interview.

Favorite part about being involved with GLR?

I learned a lot from GLR, and I still appreciate that today. It taught me a lot about managing people, budgets, and deadlines. Also, any job or duty that requires you to deal with art every day is a good thing, if you ask me. Not a whole lot of jobs are like that.

Is there anything you wish you did differently?

I’m not sure what I would’ve done different. I sort of had to learn to take my mistakes and missteps like a baseball player might, blocking out the last bad at-bat in order to step back up to the plate to do the job over again. Maybe creating more of a camaraderie among the editors would’ve been nice. GLR editors are “nice people,” most of the time. Especially to each other. So, maybe getting the editors together for a pizza or something would’ve been good, except the corrupt SA might’ve made that difficult.

Anything else you want to say about the experience?

All that I can say is that GLR was a relatively good experience, although a lot of work at times. The relationship I established with Bill and the fine people at river’s end bookstore remains a great benefit for me as I still buy books from them online and when I’m up in Oswego. I hope river’s end and GLR both remain a strong and proud staple in Oswego’s literary community for many years to come.

The GLR issues where Ethan was Editor-in-Chief can be found here and here.


By Christina Bandru


2 thoughts on “To Publish or Be Published…That Is the Question

Add yours

  1. I think that you made a great decision when you decided to incorporate an interview into your blog post. It gave a standard example of a profile story, with your own writing complementing it. You didn’t clash with the interview and your transitions into your own writing was rather smooth. I also, thought you did well when it came to comparing and contrasting your role as an editor and as a writer. The conflict there is easily identifiable and something that this particular audience could relate to. I did want to read a little bit more into your mind as a writer, especially because the blog post was focused mainly on your role as an editor. Great post.


  2. It was useful to hear Ethan reflect on the experience of being an editor, now that he’s a few years out. His comment on taking missteps in stride is especially important. GLR’s editors have to learn a lot *quickly*, and the workload is intense. Mistakes are gonna be part of that process, and that’s ok. The key is to learn from them and keep going.

    I also appreciated the way you set the interview up with some background info from the class, and then interrupted it with additional commentary. You might, ultimately, write the whole piece in your own voice and include briefer quotes from Ethan (not that you couldn’t still include a few longer quotes as block quotes). You could frame it more as an editorial profile than an interview.


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