I got a chance last week to read at the Virginia Festival of the Book, a five-day, 250-author extravaganza that left me wishing I lived closer to Charlottesville.
I also got a chance to spend a day at the offices of my favorite literary magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review, or “VQR” to those who love it.
VQR, who hosted me at the Festival, is the kind of magazine that makes me do a double-take every time I see my byline in it. Every issue has a stop-you-in-your-tracks cover. And every quarter, underneath that cover, VQR offers up a new selection of writing, poetry, photography, and graphics that will not only revive your cardiac function but also your soul.
But what amazed me most this past week was learning how VQR gets published. I fully expected expansive offices filled with Jeffersonian antiques in the lush setting of University of Virginia greenery. Yes, Thomas Jefferson did design the rooms that house VQR. But there are only three rooms. And they are filled not with desks and editors but mostly with books and old issues. Those books and old issues outnumber the people in the offices, of which there are only four (the editor, the managing editor, the assistant to the editors, and the circulation manager), by a ratio of at least 100 to one.
Four people put out that magazine. Four people. It takes more people than that to fill your coffee order at the local Starbucks.
But when you talk to those four people, especially Ted Genoways, the editor, and Kevin Morrissey, the managing editor, you can see why VQR won the National Magazine Award for general excellence in its category last year and has been nominated for the same award this year.
They are obsessed with writing, quality writing. Over lunch, we talked about Belgian beers, civil war history, and even blog management. But nothing, nothing, made Ted’s words more energized or more poetic than our discussions about good writing.
So take a look at the new Spring issue. There’s work by Philip Caputo, Nadine Gordimer, and Robert Olen Butler, and Ted has, yet again, written a beautiful editor’s column. There’s even a new essay by me, “The Gross-Out Factor.”
VQR is gorgeous. It’s an amazing read. It’s one of my favorites.