"We Prefer Pieces With a Stronger Energy." A Chat With JoBeth McDaniel, Editor of The Rush
The Rush attracted submissions from all over the world for its first issue and paid each writer. Based in Los Angeles, the title and aesthetic are based on the idea of the Gold Rush and the fast pace of life in L.A. JoBeth McDaniel, a member of the magazine’s editorial team, took The Review Review’s questions.
Interview by Laura Moretz
How did you get started with The Rush?
Many students were pushing to have a literary journal at Mount Saint Mary's, so we could learn this type of publishing from the inside out. Our faculty adviser JoAnna Novak, who teaches poetry, nonfiction and fiction in our MFA program, helped us create the concept, and she gave us a list of university writing programs. We sent out notes inviting submissions, and reached out to writers and instructors we know. We also posted submission calls on social media, and placed The Rush bookmarks in bookstores and libraries around Los Angeles.
Novak is a founding editor of Tammy, the print literary journal and chapbook, and she has experience writing for Salon, Lit Hub, Bustle, and other top journals. So she has been a huge help guiding us through the process of building The Rush.
It sounds like there’s a collective approach to editing?
I'm on the editorial team. Marina Crouse is our managing editor, but we're pretty casual about titles. All of us read submissions and all of us vote. We enjoyed a lively discussion of our favorites, and had to reject many pieces that were beautifully crafted but for various reasons did not fit well within our mix of stories. One story was destined for rejection, but this one character haunted all of us, weeks after our reading. So we changed our minds and decided to include it. I am hoping we get more flash fiction and essay submissions during this next reading period.
Do you have financial support and if so, how do you use the money?
We are working with a small annual budget from our university that covers our Submittable fees, website hosting fees, and other necessities. We are all volunteers; we spend most of our budget on our contributors. We gathered in person to vote on specifics, including submission fees and payment. One person on our team wanted the money to all go for advertising, but the rest voted for free submissions and a flat fee payment for each accepted piece.
We pay the same fee for a poem, artwork, a short story or an essay. The amount depends on how many submissions we accept for an issue. Our first issue paid each contributor $50 in the form of a gift card that we mail once the piece is accepted.
Where did your submissions come from for the first issue?
Our submissions came from Europe, Asia, Australia, and all over the US.
How does The Rush reflect Mount Saint Mary’s MFA program?
We have a small but highly diverse MFA program at MSMU, by age, race, nationality, economic background, and work experience, as one would expect from a university in downtown Los Angeles. Our staff at The Rush reflects that diversity. We just added a seventh editor who will be reading for our second issue.
Why the name The Rush?
We wanted the magazine to reflect the high energy of California. We discussed history, including the Gold Rush, and how people moved here seeking fortunes in film, oil, agriculture, and technology. Of course, we're famous here in L.A. for our freeways, too. The word "rush" kept popping up as we talked. So we all quickly agreed on The Rush, as an idea and a guiding theme for the work we publish.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
We prefer pieces with a stronger energy. Though we don't require stories to be set here or to be written by Californians, we are more likely to publish a faster paced piece that reflects this energy. Some wonderful art, poems and stories didn't work because of that aesthetic.
Did you receive a lot of submissions for the first issue?
Yes! A whopping 537 pieces in total, including 240 poems, 170 short stories, 74 essays and 39 artworks.
We were thrilled with the quality of submissions we received, and a bit overwhelmed by the quantity. All of us are graduate students juggling work, school, and family responsibilities, but we all enjoyed the reading and editing process. It's such a high to open a document and read a powerful new voice or a story that sticks with you for months afterward. This experience is one that will stay with us, especially as we submit our own writing to other literary journals.
We are already reading for the second issue, with open, free submissions until April 1. We take a few weeks after that deadline to decide, and then a few days to get the new issue posted online.
Do you have any plans to add a print issue from time to time?
For budgetary reasons, we will stick to our online version for now. We're all new to this, and learning as we go, but we hope we are creating a publication our future MSMU students can expand. We've added an online blog that features interviews of guest speakers (Ottessa Moshfegh and Geoff Dyer so far in 2017) as well as The Rush contributors, who range from unpublished artists to award-winning writers. Due to the high volume, we tend to go straight to the submission and skip the cover letter, but it is fascinating to go back and see the awards and publication history of those who submit. Fourteen pieces sent to us were withdrawn when they were accepted elsewhere, before we made our decisions. That tells me we are drawing from a talented group of artists. I hope they keep sending their excellent work to The Rush.
Laura Moretz is a fiction writer who has been published in r.kv.r.y literary quarterly, Stoneboat, and Cutthroat, and who has won the Rick DeMarinis Fiction Prize. She is an assistant editor for Boulevard and the interviews editor for The Review Review.