Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant Report
Creative Writing | Nonfiction | Publishing
Across the summer and fall of 2016, senior creative writing major Katie Higinbotham and I edited the nonfiction selections at High Desert Journal, where for the last three years I have worked as nonfiction editor. Katie served as my assistant editor and was given a byline on the masthead of the magazine for the most recent issue, HDJ 23. Katie also developed and coordinated a new series at High Desert Journal, What is the West?, in which noted authors take on that very question. Editor Charles Finn was incredibly impressed with Katie’s contributions and recently told me he wished we could afford to pay her to keep her on as a permanent assistant editor.
Katie and I began our work by looking at past issues of HDJ, as well as initial and final drafts of recently accepted essays. We also spent some time setting goals concerning the number of pieces, style of work, and diversity of included voices. Throughout the summer we both read and took notes independently in the online submission system; in the afternoons, then—roughly two or three days a week—we'd get together to talk through what we'd read. We declined pieces that were easy calls at each meeting—though, too, we often tried to give these authors a note or two about what their piece was doing well—and compared and contrasted the pieces still under consideration, slowly winnowing the pool. As we identified accepted pieces, we notified the authors and begin working with them on the editorial process. Katie gave each piece a first read, correcting errors, of course, but also offering substantial editorial guidance, offering ideas for how each author could deepen the impact of their respective essay. I also offered ideas, though many times Katie’s thoughts were right in line with my own. We then forwarded these corrections and ideas to the authors and went back-and-forth with them as many times as it took to get the essay just right. In the end, we published four striking essays by four amazing authors: Travis Truax, Annie Lampman, Rachel Toor, and Jeff P. Jones. And we’re proud to say that Jeff Jones’s essay was one of HDJ’s four Pushcart Prize nominations for the entire year.
Wilkins, Joe, "Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant Report" (2017). Post-Grant Reports. Report. Submission 97.