‘Oxford American’ hosts forum
By Valerie Ginsburg, contributing writer–
UALR students and faculty had the opportunity to participate in a Q-and-A forum featuring the managing editor and associate editor of the “Oxford American” magazine, and receive experienced professional advice about writing and publishing on Thursday, March 8.
Carol Ann Fitzgerald, managing editor and Wes Enzinna, associate editor talked about the state of the publishing industry, publishing and editing magazines versus books, the effect of the digital revolution on publishing and the workings of “Oxford American.” They also answered questions collected by Dr. Trey Philpotts, professor and chair of UALR English Department, from students and faculty and from the audience. Fitzgerald and Enzinna gave advice on writing distinguishing cover letters, internships, where to look for jobs and common mistakes in submissions.
The mission of “Oxford American” is to celebrate the American South through good writing the magazine is inspired by the writings of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and other contemporary southern writers said Fitzgerald. About 25 percent of unsolicited submissions are printed and some have gone on to win awards. At least two people read all submissions. The most common mistakes made in submissions are too many clichés, not using an authentic and honest voice according to Enzinna and Fitzgerald. “Oxford American” looks for stories with an interesting voice and perspective with an interesting position in the world Fitzgerald said.
When asked about cover letters Fitzgerald and Enzinna said that they can draw more attention to a story. They should be clear, engaging, show a familiarity with the magazine and have a little personality.
“Internships, internships, internships,” Fitzgerald stressed when questioned about how to get a job in the publishing business. The two to six unpaid, full time interns at “Oxford American” are responsible for fact checking, calling sources, authors and reading “slush” (unsolicited submissions of fiction and poetry).
Internships are valuable because they make you think about your own work and give an opportunity for the intern to realize if he or she wants to build a career in this business said Enzinna. Internships also help build a resume and contacts. Fitzgerald and Enzinna recommended an internship in New York if possible for someone who wants a career in publishing.
Contrary to popular belief, Fitzgerald and Enzinna believe that the digital revolution helps the publishing industry. Magazines and books can now offer online service as well as print. The digital revolution also presents more opportunities for writers.
The “Oxford American” is larger than a small press like “Paris Review” or Dave Eggers “McSweeney’s” who typically have under 10,000 subscribers and smaller than a large magazine. Oxford American has just under 19,000 subscriptions; between 5,000 and 10,000 newsstand copies with their annual southern music issue (featured on NPR) selling 50,000 copies according to Fitzgerald.
To apply for an internship or submit a piece of writing, go to “Oxford American’s” website at www.oxfordamerican.org.