Editor’s Note for the Tenth Anniversary of apt
Two months ago, on a whim, I reached out to our past contributors—all the writers we’ve published since 2005, all the writers whose contact information we still had (because in 2005, there was no such thing as Submittable, and our former email submissions are long gone)—and I asked them to write about the way their writing and reading has changed in the past ten years. I also asked how those things have stayed the same. And in asking, I made an implicit promise: I, too, would examine how my life as a writer and reader had changed since 2005.
I began my work at apt as Cofounder/Contributing Editor. The second title was an official way of forcing myself to be a better writer. I’d been writing fiction since 2000, and I was tired of everything I’d written, tired of every new thing I wrote, tired because it all sounded the same. I’d been published in two very tiny journals, but I’d since stopped sending work out. I was 23 and nervous that I’d never be published again. I was also terrified that if I took a break from writing, I’d never be able to start over. So I wrote and edited at least one piece for every issue, and since we published issues bimonthly, that meant I published six pieces each year.
There’s one thing that’s stayed the same: I wanted to do an online issue for the tenth anniversary of apt, and I gave myself two months to do it. And, true to form, here I am playing Contributing Editor once again.
Some of the things I wrote back then were poems. (I’m not a poet.) Others were plays. (I miss writing plays.) Most were stories, and of those stories, the great majority was awful.
But the practice—of writing and revising, of reading and publishing, of putting issues together six times a year for nearly five years straight—made me take my writing seriously and recognize volume was less important than depth. So, in 2009, I stopped publishing work at apt, and I went from Contributing Editor to Editor. That same year, I started writing long-form fiction, and I’ve since written little else.
But I want to stress that I couldn’t have made that decision, I couldn’t have focused on longer work, had I not witnessed our contributors taking risks on the page. We’ve all heard authors talk about how important it is for emerging writers to read submissions for lit journals, specifically to read work in the slush pile, and yes, it is important. But so many of us talk about the clichés we find there, about the work we see over and over again. And that’s warranted—there are a great many pieces that visit well-worn territory, without bothering to say anything new. But that’s par for the course, and what’s always been more important is reading with the intention of finding the work that pushes me as a reader. That’s when all my hyphenated titles come together. Work that moves me as a reader, work that makes me hustle as an editor, is work that makes me want to be a better writer. Writing that pushes me to think. Writing that pushes me to feel. Writing that makes me question what I thought I knew before I read it.
There’s another thing that hasn’t changed: we still find astounding work. It’s there in the work we publish every week. It’s there in our forthcoming Long Poetry issue. And it’s there among the essays we received for this anniversary issue.
I recently put together a short story collection. The oldest story in there began in 2008. I know because I emailed the rough draft to Randolph, apologizing for its heft: “Sorry it’s so long. 5,992 words.” Less than six thousand words. That’s just about the same length as the shortest story in the manuscript now. The longest is nearly 25,000 words. And the final draft of that oldest story? Hovers around 13,000 words. This is not my attempt at bragging. It’s my way of saying, when I stepped back from publishing my own work in apt, when I started thinking more about the details I chose to include based on the work I’d been lucky enough to read and luckier still to publish, when I let my drafts grow to capacity, it took me years (not weeks or months but years) to finish them. In that way, it’s not unlike my work as an editor. Best viewed through a long lens.
And we’re planning to make it longer. We’re planning to grow in the near future, which you can read about in the interview between me and Randolph, linked below. But first things first: the essays from our contributors. They’re personal, thoughtful, honest, and touching. And, like any good retrospective, they provide an account of what remains when we inventory the past.
Here’s to the next ten years, and the years that got us this far.
TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
“The Last Ten Years Were the First Ten Years”
An interview with Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff
“Loudville” by David Bartone
“The Name of the Rose, as yet” by Javier Berzal de Dios
“that failure is also a species of love” by Sam Cha
“Snowbound” by Elizabeth Chandler
“Ten Years for apt” by Josh Cook
“On Ten Years of apt” by Anika Fajardo
“The Last Ten Years” by Laurie Filipelli
“Christian Anton Gerard Thinking He’s Milton’s Adam” by Christian Anton Gerard
“Your First Day Locked Up” by Steven LaFond
“Chasing Illusive Perfection” by Molly Mary McLaughlin
“Bright Orange Cowboy Boots” by Threasa Meads
“apt Anniversary Essay” Dan Pinkerton
“Writing into Darkness” Caroline Reid
“A Retrospective” Vincent Scarpa