The South Carolina Review is celebrating their 50th birthday! Published by Clemson University Press, The South Carolina Review has an illustrious history (including pieces from Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut) and continues to feature top quality fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews. We look forward to the next 50 years!
What drives SCR? What are your goals and inspirations? Your mission?
We just want to publish the best work that comes to us issue after issue. I think we will have succeeded if readers and writers and editors feel that SCR is part of the ongoing discussion that makes up contemporary literature. We’d love to be recognized as a journal that discovers talented new writers. Our fiction editor, novelist Nic Brown, actually had his first published story years ago in SCR. I’d love to think that we could do that on a regular basis—launch the work of interesting new writers out there into the world. We’ve been known for a long time as a more traditional Southern journal, and I’d especially like to see us move beyond that designation. We want to represent a wide range of styles, backgrounds, and experiences. I love stories that, whether because of their subject matter or their execution (or both), make me feel that I’m encountering something I haven’t thought about before.
Now that SCR has 50 years under its belt, what are your plans for the journal’s future? What direction would you like to see SCR take in the next 50 years?
With the volatility of our everyday existence these days, I’d hate to predict where we’re going in the next 50 hours, much less the next 50 years. But I think one thing literature does is provide a constant in which, no matter the time or place, readers can come to artists’ work with the expectation that they’ll find something that speaks to them on an emotional and ideational level—the flesh and blood substance of literature transcends physical and temporal boundaries. That’s not to say that literature can’t deal with the burning issues of the day—the majority of stories we’re publishing in our upcoming issue could be called topical at least to some extent. But my favorite stories and poems are ones that I can imagine myself recommending to friends years later, works that stick in your mind and make you keep wanting to pass them along to others.
What do you see as the role of literary magazines in today’s society? How has that role evolved over the years and what do you think it will be in the future?
I guess lit mags don’t have much cache in a larger societal sense, right? They haven’t exactly gone the way of the dodo, but they probably have less relevance, taken all together, than, say, the pronouncements of LaVar Ball or, obviously, the incessant ramblings of the president of the United States. But wow, if not for lit mags, how would writers keep the faith? If you’re a serious writer who has yet to publish your work, then where does your hope lie except in literary magazines? If you’re thinking at all realistically, you know that you’re unlikely to have your first short stories picked up by Random House or The New Yorker, but you can always hope that you’ve got a shot at a good university lit mag. My hope is that our colleges and universities will recognize the importance of literary magazines and see the advantages of serving as host for very good ones—a highly regarded lit mag earns a good bit of exposure for a lot less expense than massive campus construction projects or fielding a top-ranked football team. It’s a small but solid investment in a good cause.
What do you look for most when reviewing submissions? Emerging writers, a certain voice, a specific theme, etc.?
We’re looking for exciting work from all across the spectrum. Again, I’d love to think that we’re providing a venue for new writers who have something interesting to say. My mentor, the late Jim Clark, editor of The Greensboro Review, always said, “I like a lot of story in my story,” and I agree . . . at least insofar as I feel that the writer’s principal investment has to be in the characters and how what’s happening to them affects us.
Do you have any fun facts or interesting stories you’d like to share about SCR?
We’re unusual in that many of our staff members are undergraduates. SCR is actually set up as a class—we cover the elements of short fiction, editing techniques, layout, etc., and we trust the students to make important contributions to the process. They have a say right along w/ our editorial staff in what we publish each issue.