“I will take every opportunity to encourage others.”
A chat with Heather Cuthbertson, editor of Gold Man Review.
Gold Man Review is an annual literary journal serving and supporting a community of authors residing on the West Coast. It highlights diverse and passionate writers of short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The journal’s founder and Editor-In-Chief, Heather Cuthbertson, has overseen all issues and has ensured that they abide by Gold Man Review’s mission, “Creativity Becomes Community.” The journal’s 9th, and most recent, issue delightfully walks the line between playful and serious with a varied collection that has something for everyone. Issue 9 offers readers tales of love gained and lost, poignant reminders of how words affect others and sometimes the future, and examinations of human behavior in all its tragic forms. Each issue presents new voices and themes, and they are all available to download. Small literary journals are always in need of support! If you are interested, download or buy an issue of Gold Man Review, or two, or three.
Interview by Sydney Gonzalez
For those reading who do not know about Gold Man Review, please describe the journal and how it was started.
Gold Man Review is a West Coast literary journal that publishes short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by writers who reside in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska. Our niche is our completely West Coast vibe.
Gold Man Review was started while I was in my MFA program. Part of the graduation requirements was a field study credit that involved community engagement, teaching, and/or included a social justice element. I had always wanted to see what it was like to be on the other side of publishing and a journal felt like a way to do that. I decided that if I was going to do it, then it had to be something exceptional, something that would make everyone proud to be involved in. After recruiting my entire critique group, we got to work.
What were your aspirations when you started Gold Man Review and what are they now?
I wanted it to be successful and to be viewed as a legitimate publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. When we started the journal, we were very careful to follow the rules of other respected journals. I also didn’t want it to be a “fly by night” journal either so I’m very proud that we have made it ten years. From here, I would love if Gold Man Review could have some real staying power. Eventually, I’m not going to be able to maintain the journal anymore, but I’d love for the dream of it to continue. I don’t know what that means or what that would look like, but that is my hope for it, that Gold Man Review is here long after I’m gone.
You received a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Criminal Justice before getting your MFA in Creative Writing. When did you know that you wanted to become a writer and editor?
I discovered my love of writing my senior year of college. I’d dabbled in it from time-to-time but didn’t have any real designs of finishing a novel until then. I didn’t start because I was given some grand idea or a character that wouldn’t let me go, it was because of Harry Potter. I know this is going to sound like a complete cliché, but like so many others I thought I could do better, and then subsequently failed at doing so. But it was in writing this magical fantasy novel full of even more clichés that I was bitten by the writing bug and I hadn’t stopped since. By that time, I was so deep into my majors that I couldn’t change gears, so I continued with the degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. After I had some life experience under my belt and I realized that being “interested” in a particular field is significantly different than being “passionate” about it. I told myself that I would only go to graduate school for something I truly could spend the rest of my life doing.
As far as how I got into editing, that all began when I started volunteering as the co-representative of the Willamette Writers Salem Chapter in Oregon. During that time, I was lucky enough to meet several literary agents, editors at publishing houses, and authors who also presented at our monthly meetings. Many of them also offered critiques for our group, which I readily participated. Just about any time I could get a critique from a professional, I took advantage of it and I learned how to edit that way, in addition to reading craft books, attending workshops, and, of course, reading and reading and reading.
I have to commend Gold Man Review’s mission “Creativity Becomes Community,” as it advocates for artists and education in the arts. What does this mission mean to you and how do you personally implement it into your work?
For me, a writing community is everything. I need it. I can’t be one of those writers who has no interaction with other writers. I feel like because this is such a lonely artform that we are in desperate need of a community. A community that is inclusive of all writers because we can learn from each other. Poets can learn from genre writers and vice versa. The more open we are, the more collaboration there can be. And I feel like when we have this open collaboration between different types of writers, the greater impact we have on the people who aren’t writers and the messages we are trying to deliver.
Every chance I get, I try to live by this mission statement. If it’s encouraging a fellow mom at Chuck E. Cheese to take another go at her nonfiction proposal that she threw in a drawer or talking to a group at the Good News Rescue Mission about how to get started writing, I will take every opportunity to encourage others to join this amazing community.
Speaking of community, I am curious to know what yours looks like. Who champions you as a writer and editor? Additionally, what is SMOLDR and how did it come together?
I think my biggest champion is my husband. He’s always been really supportive of my writing and taking it seriously and not like a hobby. Not to mention, he’s also an amazing designer and has created all the Gold Man Review covers, along with the covers for some other books, including the SMOLDR Romance Anthology.
Outside of my husband, I’d say that the members of my critique group are also my greatest champions. When I moved to Redding, it took a while to build a writing community, but I finally did. They’ve become really involved with Gold Man and have been instrumental in its continued success. Outside of the journal, we also do a lot of writing projects together. SMOLDR was the child of one of those writing projects. In the summer of 2018, we took part in a unique writing contest that was through a UK journal named Storgy. After paying an entry fee, writers were given a character, a location, and a special item with the goal of creating a Twilight Zone-type story.
We loved the idea so much that we wanted to re-create it. Since we all participated in the other contest and we knew of other people outside our group who did as well, we were in a unique position to see how we’d do things differently. We changed the genre to romance, created our town (Lake Covington), made up varied and interesting locations, created couples, and assigned them standard romance tropes. Our entrants were randomly given one of 18 profiles and were asked to write the best romance short story possible. The Lake Covington SMOLDR anthology was published February 14, 2020 and our first, second, and third place winners were all chosen by readers voting for their favorite Lake Covington couple. It was an awesome experience and it was great getting to work with writers in a different genre.
Issue 9 of Gold Man Review brings together pieces that are varied in tone, yet they all fit well into the journal’s style. When approaching a new issue, what is your method for selecting which submissions to include?
I really don’t have a cut and dry methodology for selecting the work I do. Sometimes it’s an interesting voice, style, or tone. Other times, it’s a submission that made me laugh or struck a chord. I published one piece of nonfiction once because of a single sentence that really just hit me in the gut in a way that I can’t explain. Overall, though, I like surprises: things that are odd or random. But it has to be done in a way that works for the piece and isn’t just thrown in for the sake of trying to catch my attention.
We don’t publish based on a theme, but I find it interesting that themes always manage to crop up anyway. It’s sort of the collective unconscious at work and it’s fascinating to see what’s on people’s minds every year because it’s always different.
I never thought that something titled “Irritable Bowel” could put me into such deep thought. One of my favorite things about Issue 9 is that it plays with the line between playful and serious. At what point do you determine if a submission is either too playful or too serious? Is there such a thing? If so, how do your personal standards conflict or coincide with what you think is best for the journal?
For the most part, I’d like to say my personal standards coincide with what readers are accustomed to seeing in Gold Man. I don’t think anything can be too playful. I love a playful spirit in writing. Seriousness, too, has its place, though I don’t like to have too many in an issue. Ideally, there is a good mix of both. Or even better, it contains both like “Irritable Bowel.” When examining submissions, I mostly look for great writing with that surprise element that I like so much.
Sometimes, though, there is conflict. For instance, there’s been a few occasions where a submission had great writing and a uniqueness to it that I loved, but it also had elements that were offensive and would obviously offend others. So those I do let go. I don’t generally give feedback because experience has taught me that it never goes over well. The last time this happened, I was encouraged by another editor to give an explanation to the writer after he had contacted me about the rejection. I didn’t want to because if he hadn’t figured it out by now, then I doubted I was going to be the one who’d change his worldview. But I listened to my editor and sent him an explanation anyway. It turned out that my instinct was correct. Several editors from a variety of journals had told him the same as I had, and he was ignoring the advice of us all with absolutely no intention of revising because he knew better. I put his name in my memory file.
What are things that you learned while working on the previous issues that you intend to apply to Issue 10? In what ways have you grown as an editor and writer over time?
Every issue I’m learning something, but there are some general things that I’ve adopted over time that I’ll apply to Issue 10. For instance, when we first started, we did a lot of developmental editing, but now it’s only light copyediting. Because of this change, we’ve gotten a lot pickier in the quality of submissions we will accept though it’s not without the occasional heartbreak. There was this one submission that I really loved the concept, and I still think about it to this day, but it would have needed too much editing to get it to the point that it was publishable so I had to let it go. Other than that, I’ve learned how to review submissions quicker. It used to be that I’d read every story from start to finish. Even if I didn’t want to, I couldn’t not do it. It was like a compulsion. I’ve learned to let that part of the process go and if it’s not for us, it’s not for us. But overall, every year, Gold Man sharpens my editing and writing skills because not only do I get to see what not to do, I also get to see what works so I’m constantly learning from our awesome contributors.
Finally, what have you been most proud of thus far in your career, and what are you most excited for?
What has made me most proud is that I’ve stayed the course. There’s been many times that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, not just with Gold Man Review, but with my own writing and I haven’t. I’m still here, plugging along, despite all the obstacles that have been thrown in my way. Because I’ve chosen to continue, I’ve also been given a lot of opportunities and have made connections with many writers over the years. Right now, I’m most excited about what’s around the corner because the unknown is always full of possibility. Currently, I’m finishing up a new novel, working on another writing project with my critique group, and gearing up for the 10th issue of Gold Man, so who knows what exciting new prospects come from those.
Sydney Gonzalez is a recent Gonzaga University graduate with Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Broadcast & Electronic Media Studies and Public Relations along with a minor in Writing. She is currently fulfilling her goal of working in the entertainment industry in her hometown of Los Angeles.