UMSL alumna Lauren Wiser

Left Bank Books Marketing and Publicity Manager Lauren Wiser, MFA 2013, talks about her time as editor of Natural Bridge and the latest issue. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The latest issue of Natural Bridge is in full circulation now. The literary journal produced by the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ MFA in Creative Writing program features the best fiction, poetry and essays it receives from writers all over the nation.

Every school year an MFA student is chosen to serve as the journal’s managing editor. From May 2012 to August 2013, Lauren Wiser, MFA 2013, was in charge of issues 29 and 30. She is now the marketing and publicity manager at Left Bank Books in the Central West End, but her work at UMSL is still playing out. The 30th issue she helped compile nearly a year ago has finally come to fruition after the publishing process. Here is her perspective on her time as editor and the newest issue of Natural Bridge.

What drew you to the position of managing editor?

I’ve always had an interest in editing and publishing. In fact, that’s why I applied to UMSL’s MFA program. They offer a chance to work on a nationally distributed literary journal. I was eager to learn the inner workings of the job, specifically because the literary journal is a writer’s gateway into the publishing world. It’s our first step in the process, and I wanted to pick that all apart and see how it worked.

How did the journal grow under your advisory?

I worked on two big projects while I was managing editor. The first was starting an editor’s blog that assistant editors wrote for each week. I really wanted to have a line of communication between the editors and the writers, to have a place where we could say, “Look, we want to publish your story, poem or essay, and we want to help your piece be the best possible version of its self.” I also, with the assistance of Mary Troy, professor of English, hosted a literary journal panel. Michael Nye from The Missouri Review, Gianna Jacobsen from December, Valerie Vogrin from Sou’wester and many more answered questions about the ins and outs of journal publishing. It was great to work with other literary journals in the community and help give writers a push in the right direction. As a writer, I learned so much myself!

What would you say is the theme of Issue 30 and why?

All the pieces in the issue have an otherworldly quality to them, an orientation just left of center. The comic book feel of Ron Austin’s “The Gatecrasher of Hyboria,” the imagery of death in Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s “Empty Tomb Man,” the stutter-step, disorienting rhythm in Clark Chatlain’s “(the coming end)”: all these pieces work to give the issue a dreamlike quality, a feeling of reality that is not quite reality as we know it.

What inspired the choice in artwork for the cover?

The cover was inspired by the poem “I Had Been Thinking of Too Many Dark Things” by Lisa Zimmerman, which is full of gorgeous, breathtaking imagery. We work with an amazing artist, Nathan Gibson, who designed the covers for the past three issues of Natural Bridge. Everything Nathan produces is absolutely stunning, and he’s a joy to work with!

It’s a rather slim issue. What do you think this achieves for the journal?

I rather like slim issues of literary journals. It always feels to me that the editors are making a statement with them, saying: “We’re not going to add fluff or pieces we’re not really crazy about just to add pages to the issue. We’re going to give you only the pieces that we absolutely love.” If we were going back and forth on a piece, we would ask ourselves, “Would you run up to your best friend and say, ‘You cannot go another moment without reading this’?” The audience of Natural Bridge is always that friend, and we want to run up to them every time and give them only the best.

Wiser’s short story, “Drowners” was recently accepted by YARN for their issue coming out June 2013. Lately, Wiser is itching to try her hand at young adult fiction and is playing with the idea of writing a novel when she isn’t promoting literature and the local, much-loved Left Bank Books.

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