The latest issues of Natural Bridge, a contemporary literature journal published by UMSL, is available for purchase in print and digital versions. (Photo by August Jennewein)

About half a year separates new editions of Natural Bridge, the contemporary literature journal published by the University of Missouri–St. Louis. And it takes every bit of that time for a staff primarily composed of students in the MFA in Creative Writing program to produce the issue in print and – for the first time ever – digital formats.

Joseph Grailer, a creative writing graduate student and a managing editor for Natural Bridge, said the process involves two major components: 1.) reading and selecting stories and 2.) layout and typesetting the journal.

“We read from the first to the last week of each semester and, in that time, we’ll normally go through somewhere between 500 and 800 submissions,” Grailer said. “Of these, we will select around 40 to 60 to appear in the journal.”

Each issue of Natural Bridge features a guest editor who sets the theme. For example, Drucilla Wall, assistant teaching professor of English at UMSL, served as guest editor of Natural Bridge No. 26, which uses “The Living Earth” as its thematic guide. The poetry, fiction, essays and translated works that constitute the issue generally fit within that theme.

New this year is the availability of Natural Bridge as an e-book. Readers can now download issue No. 26 at for the Kindle e-reader. Grailer, who worked on the digital version, said Natural Bridge should also soon be available for purchase at Google Play, which will offer a downloadable e-reader version that can be read on the iPad, Nook and most other e-reader devices.

“We are hoping that there is strong enough support from our readers to continue offering digital versions alongside print going forward,” Grailer said.

For the students who work on Natural Bridge, the experience they gain goes beyond editing and publication design. Grailer said he’s received real-world business experience he didn’t expect to find in an MFA program, including bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, organization, logistics, business writing and web programming.

“Most importantly, it has provided me the opportunity to actively participate in, and experiment with, the worldwide literary community in a time of tremendous change and opportunity,” he said.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz