IN OTHER WORDS #6 – Catherine Parnell
This is the sixth installment of IN OTHER WORDS, a feature we’re running in 2014 in which we interview various editors on the art of editing.
This time, we’re talking to Catherine Parnell, Senior Associate Editor of Consequence Magazine.
1/You’ve been Senior Associate Editor at CONSEQUENCE since the beginning. Talk about how the journal has changed since then and the way its previous issues have shaped what it is now.
George Kovach founded the magazine in 2009, and he asked me to come on board in the spring of 2010. We’re a team, co-conspirators, so to speak, working to expose the myths, sentimentality and knee-jerk patriotism associated with the wide spectrum of violence and combat—to not only enrich reality, but to effect change. CONSEQUENCE’s subject is war and how it affects us at every level of society, in every country in the world. Our mission statement—to focus on the culture and consequences of war—lends itself to an eyes-wide-open approach. Initially, we published work that was anti-war, not hippie peacenik, but informed and subjective reflections on battle. But we’ve grown with every issue, not just in page count, but in terms of considered outrage and range. Diversity—gender, faith, ethnicity, point of view—is critical to our mission. We tackle these issues on a national and international scale. And here’s where I’m going to give you our own VIDA count coupled with a shift in magazine content. There was no fiction in our first issue; in our latest issue you’ll find seven stories, five by women.
A word about what we do publish. Sadly, there’s a wealth of war material available to writers from the battlefields of ancient Greece (Margaret Luongo’s “History of Art”) to the bases in Afghanistan (Tony Schwalm’s “Combat Anthropology”). As Bob Shacochis (author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, excerpted in Volume 4) said at our panel discussion in April of 2014, “We want peace and yes, we are willing to kill for it.” I’m not naïve; I understand the algorithm at work, but on a personal level I weep when I read some of our submissions. (And I’m a tough nut—Carissa knows!)
How has the journal changed? That’s a really good question, one I can answer by example. Lee Hancock wrote a piercing essay on the Fort Hood shooting (Volume 5), and as we were about to go to press, the tragedy in Newtown struck. Lee revised the essay—and we now have a new essay slot in the magazine that we refer to as “violence in America.” NRA, watch out. We’re fighting the war on guns the only way we know—Write About It.
2/What is your curatorial process like? What would you describe as your “best” problem during the editorial stages (in other words, when you’ve got a great issue lined up, but the order is driving you crazy, that’s a “good” problem to have)?
Our process is straightforward. We have a very small submissions window, and we read everything that comes in. We also solicit work, and lately – what a blessing—work has come to us from established writers. Then we work like hell to meet deadlines. Like most literary magazine editors, we’re volunteers, so we have day jobs and night jobs and lives and loves. But we’re addicted to what we do.
A good problem to have? I’ve worked with writers who walk into the editorial process certain their story or essay is done. It never is. That’s when the real fun begins—editing requires trust and patience, but the result? Good words in print.
3/Name one or two exemplary pieces you’ve personally worked on that epitomize CONSEQUENCE.
That’s a bit like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. I have two sons, so I know better than to answer a question like that. But I will.
Two stories about war: Phil Klay’s “War Stories” and David Abram’s “Guns” draw the readers into pre- and post-war traumas. “Elegy with Wing Rising Inside It” by Amy Tudor explores 9/11 with bird-like grace (and sorrow); Stephen Dau’s “Stone Ghosts” digs into culpability and responsibility on a personal level—the decimation of the Native American population on this continent; and Jenna Wallace’s “Sometimes People” explores cultural fear through a child’s eyes. I could go on and on—but…
The real question is one I’d ask readers—name one or two exemplary pieces published in our magazine. Private message me on Facebook when you do.
I read Agni cover to cover, and then I start over. Memorious, apt (of course), Gulf Coast, Florida Review, The Normal School, Southampton Review, Epiphany, and ecotone. There’s this new mag in town—run by some guy named Dan Pritchard? Critical Flame?
5/Since CONSEQUENCE’s aesthetic focuses on war and its related impacts, how is that specific focus related to your role in the literary community?
As an editor at Consequence, my role in the literary community is to present as many angles as possible and to build community. I find the word network too mechanical—I favor the word connect. That spark, that flame—find those with whom you have rapport and proceed, as the poet Liam Rector used to say.
As a result I find myself walking about in politically charged air thinking about responsibility—I’m always asking myself What can I do? One answer is clear: publish work that widens the conversation.
6/And, as a fiction writer, how does that aesthetic affect your own writing?
Oddly enough, I wrote around the edges of war long before CONSEQUENCE was founded. What I wouldn’t give to be able to write about puppies and rainbows…
7/Which upcoming CONSEQUENCE issue/project are you most excited about?
We’re taking our April 2014 panel, “The Personal and the Political: American Culture and Militarism,” on the road. (You can watch it online.) We’ll change things up a bit, but the idea remains the same. First stop, Manhattan. Anyone out there in other cities want to host us?
8/I’m lucky enough to already know, but for the readers who aren’t, describe in three words what it’s like to work with you in an editorial capacity.
Always be closing.
Catherine Parnell is an independent consultant and occasional university lecturer as well as an instructor at Grub Street in Boston. She’s the Senior Associate Editor for Consequence Magazine. Her non-fiction chapbook, The Kingdom of His Will, was published in 2007. Recent publications include stories and reviews in Spaces, Post Road, The Baltimore Review, Slush Pile, roger, and other literary magazines, as well as various newspapers and newsletters.