Q&A with Jordan Brown, Wisconsin Review senior editor

Grace Zaplatynsky, Campus Connections Writer

UWO graduate student Jordan Brown is the current senior editor of the Wisconsin Review, a literary magazine based in UW Oshkosh that has run since 1966. After a year of not publishing, Brown became the senior editor in fall 2017 and published an unfinished issue last semester. He is currently working on the second issue of the school year, which is the first issue where he can choose the content with his poetry editor Morgan Frost.

How did you get into the Wisconsin Review?

Well, I’m a graduate student, and I was also an undergraduate student here like 10 years ago. And in that time, the Wisconsin Review was quite apparent. It was everywhere. When I came back here as a graduate student, it was nowhere to be found. I was sort of disappointed, I guess, that the Wisconsin Review had disappeared. But when I came on, it was either be the senior editor or there’s no journal.

How will you try to reach your readers? As it is now, I looked online and I saw that it was $10 for each issue.

I’ve been putting issues on [the Oshkosh Scholar display stand in Polk Library], but I don’t think they like it because they move it all the time, because technically it’s not ours, it’s theirs. But when I was here in the past, we had our own rack. You could walk in and anybody could take them; they’re free for students. I think that price [online] needs to be changed, and that also reflects the fact that we have not had a webmaster in like five years. But it’d be nice to get that stand back in.

And readers are like the editors? They read the stuff and help decide what goes on?

A reader’s sole obligation is just to read and leave notes and vote. They’re not making the final decisions or doing any of the editing. There are opportunities for people to be involved and just have fun and just read stories, which is fun and not a lot of commitment and pretty easy, but there’s also opportunities for people to do work and to see what really happens and to see how to really communicate. But there are opportunities to be paid, too. The actual editors get paid. And you get your name in print, which is like really cool. So that was my pitch to new students.

The Wisconsin Review is considered one of the longest-running Wisconsin literary magazines, how do you keep up with the pressure and standards it sets?

I send emails freaking out about everything and saying all these things that are wrong, and then I send an email 10 minutes later that says, “Oh, I guess it’s all right. Never mind.” That’s why I don’t consider myself the best person for this position, because I’m very reactionary. I’m very obsessive and neurotic. So I don’t deal with it very well.

What is your favorite part about being the senior editor?

The experience of it. Seeing what it takes to make this happen. Because what I did not expect was all the little stuff behind the scenes – emails, corresponding with, cashing checks from people that are buying. Something like the Wisconsin Review isn’t just about art; it’s also kind of a business. I really have an appreciation with how much work goes into vehicles for art. But somebody’s got to maintain that vehicle, and I have a whole new appreciation for what goes into publishing.

With all the time you’re spending on the Wisconsin Review, do you ever have any time to just write for yourself?

It’s hard. I’m in a fiction class, and if you want to write good fiction, you need to read good fiction. And some of the stuff that we get is not very good. We have probably about 100 submissions a semester. There was about 300 when I came on because they went back so far. But that’s a lot of writing, and not all of it’s good. That’s what we’re here for, because a lot of it’s not very good. And I was very frustrated because I was feeling like my own work was suffering. So it is difficult, and I’m currently trying to find that balance.

How do you decide what to publish?

I’ll tell you next month. Because the last issue we put out, all the work was accepted already. Almost all of it had already been accepted but was not actually put together, was not actually laid out and edited. I didn’t actually choose any of that work. Someone else did. I just got it into the magazine with Samantha and some other people. So I don’t know. But that’s kind of what I’m struggling with now. The hardest part for me is there’ll be something in the story that I really like, but I don’t like all of it. Because then how much do you try to work with that author and how much do you say, “Can you change this?” We’re not paying them to publish. It’s not like this is a full-time job for us, where we’re going to go and rewrite everything for everybody, like a big-name editor would try to do probably. So I’m trying to figure that out still.

What do you hope to accomplish with the Wisconsin Review?

Put out the coolest issues that have ever been put out. A more serious answer: to have the Wisconsin Review be something that you can pick up and meet people because that’s really what you do when you’re reading somebody else’s artwork; you’re meeting them in a way. You’re reading their voice from all over the world because we get submissions from everywhere. That’s what I like. The goal is to put out a magazine that you can hear new voices and connect with the community. I mean, that’s what I thought was so cool before.