Lynn C. Miller’s two published novels are The Fool’s Journey, which juxtaposes Edith Wharton’s mid-life crisis with that of her fictional biographer, and Death of a Department Chair, a mystery focused on the politics of race, gender, and sexuality in institutional life. A new novel, THE DAY AFTER DEATH, is under contract with the University of New Mexico Press. Co-editor of Voices Made Flesh: Performing Women’s Autobiography, Lynn has performed the work of many women writers, including Katherine Anne Porter, Victoria Woodhull, Edith Wharton, and Gertrude Stein. Her most recent book is Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir (co-authored with Lisa Lenard-Cook), out in 2013 from University of Wisconsin Press. She’s taught at the University of Southern California and Penn State, and was Professor of theatre and dance at the University of Texas at Austin until 2007. She is the co-editor of the literary journal bosque (the magazine) and co-founder and co-director of the ABQ Writers Coop, providing community in New Mexico for writers everywhere.
Lisa Lenard-Cook’s PEN-shortlisted novel Dissonance, originally published by UNM Press, has just been re-issued in paperback and e-editions by Santa Fe Writers’ Project. She’s also the author of New Mexico Penwomen Zia Prize-shortlisted novel Coyote Morning (UNM Press), and the writing guides The Mind of Your Story (Writer’s Digest Books) and (with Lynn C. Miller) Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press), as well as numerous trade nonfiction books. Her short fiction has appeared in Southwest Review, Rosebud, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Lisa is a faculty member at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, and was recently a featured writer at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference in Ogden. Lisa is a co-founder of ABQ Writers Co-op (abqwriterscoop.com), bosque (the magazine), and the Bosque Fiction Prize, and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Ramola D: Tell us about bosque. When did it begin, what were the seeds of its inception? Did it come about as an intended collaboration?
Lynn C. Miller: Lisa and I were teaching memoir and fiction together after we founded the Albuquerque Writers Coop, and realized we both had always wanted to start a literary magazine. It seemed like an exciting next step in our work with writers, both in terms of publishing fine writing and creating community.
Lisa Lenard-Cook: Like Lynn, I’d long considered starting a literary magazine. But I also knew that in terms of expense, time, and energy, many burn out on these ventures quickly. Starting a collaborative venture seemed at the time a way to avoid some of these potential problems.
Rd: Why the lower case title, and is there a certain meaning behind the name?
LCM: The word bosque means a cottonwood forest by the river. Albuquerque is built along the Rio Grande, which has the largest bosque in the world. For us, the word connected us to the landscape and suggested a living, growing presence in our part of the world. The lower case was a design choice by our art editor.
LLC: One can’t help but feel the connection with the natural world in a place like New Mexico. It begins every morning with the sky, which is endless and all around us, and almost always this amazing shade of blue. But in terms of work, our focus is on the writing. Surprise us. Be brave. Push your story beyond your fears. We love good writing!
Rd: What were and are some of the essential literary intentions of bosque?
LCM: We are an international as well as a national magazine, but one grounded in the southwest. We want to publish wonderful writers.—one of our unique features is that every year we publish a bosque discovery, a writer’s first published story . We also publish literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and our annual fiction contest draws a diverse crop of writers. We like writing that uses language in powerful ways, has compelling themes, but, most importantly surprises us.
Rd: I love the visual art on the cover of your 2013 issue, also your newest 2014 issue, and the beautiful photo on your website by Lynda Miller. Is art an important part of your magazine?
LCM: Art has been a part of the magazine since the first issue and in that area of the magazine, we celebrate southwestern images. We plan to increase the art in the magazine in future and Lynda, our art editor, has many ideas to make the art complementary with the writing. Albuquerque and New Mexico have a unique synergy between artists and writers.
Rd: You have an amazing editorial group working with you–Hilda Raz, who edited Prairie Schooner for many years, Lynda Miller as art editor. How did all the editors come on board? Do all editors live locally in New Mexico?
LCM: Yes, all four of us are in the ABQ area. I had read in Poets & Writers that Hilda Raz had moved to Placitas and contacted her. It turned out she’d already heard that Lisa and I had started a magazine and she was eager to meet with us and be of whatever support she could be. She is a terrific mentor to poets and has made bosque’s poetry a force to be reckoned with! Lynda Miller is my spouse and has been involved in our design and visual strategy from the beginning.
Rd: You both have impressive resumes and bodies of work, and obviously busy lives. What do you both see as some of the challenges of running a literary magazine in addition to your own writing and teaching?
LCM: It is a challenge and our decision to publish an annual magazine came out of our realistic look at our available time. The challenge for me is to compartmentalize the year into chunks where I am engaged in the magazine and periods that I have for my own work. It still requires a lot of juggling; however, reading for the magazine is a way to keep current on the direction of new writing.
LLC: Because Lynn was ill last year, I ended up handling so many of the administrative tasks, the magazine took enormous chunks of my time this past year. As I’m now ill, I will be stepping back from the day-to-day of the magazine until I feel better, and will then assess if I’m able to continue to devote time to both it and my own work. Hopefully, we’ll get all this illness behind us and get back to the work of our own writing—and publishing bosque.
Rd: How is bosque published? Do you run your own press?
LCM: Lisa and I publish the magazine through bosque press which we founded. We are discussing enlarging the press’s mission to publish book-length works by some of our writers.
Rd: How is bosque funded? Is it run as a non-profit, do subscriptions meet expenses?
LCM: The magazine is not run as a non-profit at this time; so far, sales are meeting our expenses.
Rd: You run literary contests whose winners you publish in bosque. Tell us about your contests, how they are set up, and what you would advise any potential contestant. Are writers you know, for instance, not permitted to enter?
LCM: We have other readers, so we refer writers we know to be read by them first. We also have a final judge, a nationally known fiction writer (this year Lynne Sharon Schwartz) who makes the final decisions. The contest is set up on Submittable and publicized through venues like Poets & Writers and Duotrope. The contest is set up so that the submissions go through our readers, then through us, and we choose the ten top stories that then go to our judge.
Rd: How do you solicit work generally? Do you advertise, or submit calls to Poets and Writers, etc.? Do you think bosque is well-known nationally?
LCM: We solicit writers from conferences where we’re on faculty, from our classes and client work, as well as P&W. Our magazine is still relatively new and not yet a household name.
LLC: I’d like to add that we encourage writers to read the mag, and to check our—and all litmags’—guidelines before submitting. None of us are paid, and every submission that does not follow our guidelines takes up time that could be spent furthering the work of those who have some idea of our editorial vision. Far too often, the writers who do not check guidelines are also those who do not revise or edit before they submit. The best writing has been revised and rewritten before it goes out.
Rd: Now you also run a Writers Co-op, the ABQWriters Co-op. Did this start as a means to create a writers’ community in Albuquerque, how does it work? What does it entail?
LCM: ABQ Writers Co-op is really an umbrella for our retreats, community events, classes, and the magazine. It started as a way to make connections with local writers. In future, our focus will be on bosque press.
Rd: As writers and editors, you also collaborate in other ways. Tell us more about your collaborative book Find your Story, Write your Memoir, which is gaining all sorts of recognition currently. How did this project come about, how is it being recognized, where can we find it?
LCM: Find Your Story grew out of our classes on memoir. We realized we’d come up with a really clear and flexible way to guide writers through the process of idea to a finished product using what we called the fiction writers’ toolkit, which employs the techniques and tools of fiction to maximize the narrative impact of memoir. Published by U of Wisconsin Press, it’s available on their website and all other distribution channels.
Rd: What would you say are the rewards of running a literary magazine and a writers’ co-op?
LCM: The sense of community among our writers is very satisfying. When we launch the new bosque at Bookworks in Albuquerque, for example, we always have an SRO audience and the support from the contributors and others is very powerful.
Rd: Do you have plans to expand in any way?
LCM: Not at this time.
Rd: We seem to exist in a somewhat bifurcated publishing world these days with the big houses on one side and small presses on the other. What do you think? How do you view the parts bosque and your co-op play, in this scenario?
LCM: The growing presence of local presses and new magazines are a direct answer to the increasingly block-buster focus of the large publishing houses. It’s exciting for people to feel a part of a new literary magazine, for example, as they’re part of an expanding awareness that good literature has to be fed by a community of readers and writers.
LLC: I think that as long as big houses continue to focus on knowns, the future of good writing lies in small presses. There are always exceptions, of course, but small presses are far more willing to take risks for writing and writers they believe in. Risk-taking is not an element of big business.
Rd: What might you advise other writers interested in starting up editorial ventures like bosque or interested in creating writing communities of their own?
LCM: Choose a scale you can manage, involve other people, keep your expectations modest at first, and enjoy the resulting creation of community.
For More Information
Visit ABQ Writers Co-Op online.
Visit bosque (the magazine) online.